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Jep's Place: Hope, Faith, and Other Disasters by Joseph Parzych

Jep's Place: Hope, Faith, and Other Disasters

by Joseph Parzych

228 pages
Memoir of large Polish immigrant family during the Great Depression.

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Category: Autobiography
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About the Book
Jepís Place is a vivid account of growing up during The Great Depression on a hardscrabble farm in a family of 13 children of former sharecropping Polish immigrants. The isolated farm at the end of a dirt road has no electricity, telephone or running water. The drafty farmhouse is often heated only by a kitchen woodstove. The childrenís bedrooms have no heat. The fire in the kitchen stove dies during the night, and frost forms on the childrenís bedroom ceilings. Water left on the stove in a tea kettle, to prime the hand pump, often freezes during the night.

The account includes his fatherís debacle with a moonshine still and home brew operation during prohibition, memories of Cossacks and hair breadth escapes, the trek of the authorís mother across Europe during WWI, through the fighting, with a two year old child, stowing away on a Dutch freighter to reach New York, surviving the influenza pandemic that kills her husband, leaving her with a six year old, a two year old and pregnantóno money, no job and no family to help. She marries a widower with three children. They have seven more children. A zany woman with no training, who claims to know all about birthing babies, delivers five of the seven additional children, including the author.

The barn burns, a hurricane carries away buildings, a sister nearly dies of a ruptured appendix, and another dies a mysterious death. At ten, the author rides a mowing machine, unable to reach the foot rest and falls onto the cutter bar. His father gives him the job of taking firewood away from the whirling blade of a saw rig. He narrowly escapes from blood poisoning after slashing his wrist cords on a window pane.

Polish is spoken at home and he learns English in first grade. He loses a permanent front tooth after a bully pounds his mouth. Later, he nearly massacres the schoolyard bullies in a blind rage. He stands up to his strict father, who tries to send him to reform school.

His father takes the older girls out of school, as young as 13, to work as housekeepers and nannies. His older brothers quit school and run away. He attends a prestigious prep school as a day student, against his fatherís wishes. By age 12 heís buying all his own clothes. He earns money working on farms, for the highway department, with a railroad section gang, in a paper mill, and trading used cars. At age 17, he quits school, joins the Army and becomes a paratrooper, gets a GED, is honorably discharged and graduates from high school, prep school and college.

Parzych portrays farm life with humor and love, as well as sadness. He relates stories of making pets of calves, pigeons, circus pigs and other farm animals that are later killed, often beheaded amidst torrents of blood. He recognizes that he was strong minded and his parents did the best they could during trying times, under difficult conditions.


I have read the book Jep's Place by Joseph Parzych. I must tell you that I found it to be absolutely wonderful. Being of Polish decent, I could relate to much of what was said within the book. It was very heart-warming, sad but humorous, and eye-opening. I couldn't put it down. I hope that Parzych will have a follow-up book to Jep's Place.
- Ginny Wesoloski
Joe Parzych offers up a tale that is often deeply moving, sometimes thrilling, always vivid. It is the best kind of history, a combination of facts and impressions told as an engaging story that reads like a novel. Although it is about one man's extended family, it is an American family and it's triumphs and tragedies reflect our shared experience and express our hope for finding that feeling of being part of a community, the feeling of being home. I feel like I've really been to Jep's Place and felt welcomed there. I'd go back in a minute.
- Stan Rosenberg, Massachusetts State Senator
Remembrances(Pamienki) of growing up during the Great Depression in a poor family of 13 children of Polish immigrants in a small farmhouse previously owned by Jephard Carey and locally referred to as Jep's Place. This is a compelling story of a boy's life until age 17 in the first part of the nineteenth century.
- Frederick S. Zimnoch, Polish Genealogical Society
Serves up a vanished way of life in matchless physical detail. Tragedy, cruelty, sacrifice, intransigence, and humiliating poverty mark these pages, but so do humor in large doses and love under duress.
- Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe
Parzych also writes of the family's emotional and economic travails---the death of a baby sister, the grim pall cast by his father's erratic, sometimes abusive behavior; the grind of trying to earn a living at the local paper mill. Dashes of humor throughout the book lighten Parzych's picture. Recalling the first church service he attends as a little boy, Parzych describes the priest: "The person wore a long black dress with a fancy white lace over-blouse, and a little beanie. I couldn't decide if it was a man in a dress or one homely woman.
- Suzanne Wilson, Daily Hampshire Gazette



About the Author
Joseph Parzych is an essayist, photographer, former heavy equipment operator and contractor, father of four, including a multi-handicapped daughter. He served as a public relations writer in Japan with the U.S. paratroops, graduated Mount Hermon, earned a B.S. in Business Administration, is a member of the National Honor Society, and is an award winning writer published in Yankee magazine, Yankee Books, Readerís Digest and many other publications.



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