The Polish name for grandfather is dziadek, used when speaking about one's grandfather. It is pronounced "jah-deck." Dziadziu, sometimes spelled dziadzio, is used when speaking to one's grandfather. It is pronounced "jah-goo." Variations include dziedzko and dziadzi. Occasionally a grandfather will be called jaja, but like the grandmother name of baba, the term has negative associations.
The history of Poland is a tale of near-constant war and economic struggle. Time and time again the Poles fought against powerful enemies, lost and were subjugated, but recovered to fight again. The legacy of these struggles, some say, is a distrust of outsiders and a reliance on fellow Poles. The family and the church also became places of refuge and places where the meaning of being Polish could be defined and passed on to future generations.
Traditionally families in Poland were three-generation affairs, with grandparents, parents and children sharing a household. Typically this was a patriarchal structure, with adult sons living with their parents and adult daughters moving to the households of their husbands. The older generation held the greatest authority.
In the 20th century, the stresses of war, dislocation and a struggling economy led to the nuclear family becoming the dominant model.
In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence of the three-generation model, with women working outside the home and the grandparent generation making significant contributions to the rearing of the children. Historically, they have also contributed to the process of teaching the grandchildren the Polish language.
About 97% of Poles speak Polish, which is somewhat remarkable considering the attempts by other countries to suppress its use and also considering the variety of languages spoken within Poland's borders and in neighboring territories.
The church is also an agent of Polish national identity. Although the church was targeted during the days of Communist rule, when the goal was an atheistic society, Poles refused to give up their religious beliefs and practice. Today around 95% of Poles are Catholic, and the majority attend services regularly.
Religious observances in Poland blend Catholicism with folk customs. Many religious holidays include folk elements. For example, the Polish Santa, Mikolaj or St. Nicholas, may appear at an Advent service to give gifts to children. In other areas of Poland, gifts may be given by Baby Jesus.
Some might say that the struggles of the Polish people have given rise to a philosophical attitude, which is reflected in a great number of Polish sayings or proverbs. Here are some that might be used by a Polish grandfather.
- "Biada bez dzieci, biada i z dziećmi." Children are uncertain comforts but certain cares. Children may bring you joy, but they are certain to cause you worry.
- "Los szczęście rzuca, ale nie każdy je łapie." Fate throws fortune, but not everyone catches. To be successful, you have to be ready to capitalize on your chances.
- "Kruk krukowi oka nie wykole." The crow won't peck an eye of another crow. You can rely on those like you not to stab you in the back.
- "Broda nie czyni filozofa." If the beard were all, the goat might preach. The appearance of virtue or competence can be misleading.
- "Lepszy własny chleb niż pożyczona bułka." Dry bread at home is better than roast meat abroad. Home is best, even when it is humble.
- "Na pochyłe drzewo wszystkie kozy skaczą." All goats jump onto leaning trees. If you open yourself to abuse, others will take advantage of you.