Treasure of “Forum” lies hidden…

A member of our editorial staff, kind-hearted, reserved, taciturn, patient, reflective, understanding, tolerant, warm, kind… humble, wise, mature, sensitive, helpful and…    I could use many other adjectives describing an exceptional and good person because it so happens that they all fit his personality.

Sean Martin, an exceptional young man, a member of our editorial staff, is different from most of us in that he is not Polish, although he seems to be more “Polish” than all of us. He has an incredible sense of patriotism and identifies with Polish culture, tradition and history.  He speaks excellent Polish. We see his name in every edition of “Forum” because he translates most of our pieces into English.

Sean was born on January 10, 1968, in Steubenville, Ohio, to an Irish-Italian family. He grew up in the small town of Weirton, West Virginia. You may ask, How does an American with no Polish background become fascinated with Polish history and culture? It all began in college. Sean recalls wonderful teachers who inspired his sensibility to history, culture, religion and national identity. He studied at Columbia University in New York, majoring in Eastern European history and politics. The more he researched the nuances of our European historical and cultural secrets, the more drawn to them he became. When asked about why he chose this major, he simply states that “religion, ethnicity, language and national identity are incredibly interesting subjects that never become boring.”

Sean specializes in Jewish history. He wrote a dissertation (and later book) on the history of Jews in Cracow from 1918 to 1939. In 1996 and 1997 he lived in Cracow doing research for his dissertation. He remembers these years with a smile, describing Cracow in a way only an American would: “Cracow is what American people think Europe is – it has a river, a castle and an old town square.”

These days Sean works at Western Reserve Historical Society. He takes part in many research projects, including one on the history of Rockefeller Park and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. He also does research on the daily life of Jews in Poland for the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which will be opening soon in Warsaw. He also works on a major research project on Jewish orphanages in pre-war Poland. In his free time, Sean also translates books and articles from Polish to English.

This is our Sean – a little absent-minded, quiet and romantic… and only his name in “Forum” reminds us that he is exceptional.

I asked Sean a question that will be the subject of a series of articles in Forum: What is the future of Polonia in Cleveland? As our first interviewed person, this is how he describes his vision of Polonia’s future: “As long as Polonia keeps doing what the Center is doing, they will exist as a separate and individual nation and will remember their roots and history. When they stop investing in their tradition and culture, they will become assimilated in America, losing their national identity.”

With thanks for the conversation,

Agata Wojno
Translated Agnieszka Szulecki

Forum, 1/2010