“New Roots in River Banks” Exhibit

New Roots in River BanksNew Roots in River Banks is an exhibit and accompanying events on Polish and other Eastern European immigrants and their contributions in the Connecticut River Valley. Told through the experiences of two Eastern European immigrant families – the Skibicki/Skibiski family on farming and the Sojka family in factories, the exhibit, through photos and artifacts, chronicles their journey from Poland and Ukraine to America and their lives here in America. For all ages; all events are free and open to the public.

Presented by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and funded by Mass Humanities as part of the Expanding Massachusetts Stories initiative to interpret and/or share narratives about the Commonwealth, with an emphasis on the voices and experiences that have gone unrecognized, or have been excluded from public conversation.

Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center’s Mass Humanities 2024 Food, Farms, and Factories projectIn collaboration with the Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center’s Mass Humanities 2024 Food, Farms, and Factories project, highlighting the hard work of all peoples in farms and factories.




March 9 to April 28,

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls


Summary List of Events:

*Click to jump to each section of this page below, or continue reading for details.

ró?d?ki kwiatowe, (flower wands)Saturday, March 9   1 – 3 pm Exhibit opening reception

Susan Urban, Polish Craft and Culture specialist, will teach visitors the art of making kwiatki (paper flowers), bukiety (bouquets), and ró?d?ki kwiatowe, (flower wands).  Free; supplies are provided.

Free refreshments include: Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish cookies such as Chrusciki, Kolachy, and Rugelach; bottled water or seltzer

Kolachy Cookies

March 10, 2-3 pm at the Great Falls Discovery Center
Factory Talk: The Griswold Cotton Mill

presented by DCR Park Interpreter

pysanky Ukrainian eggsTuesday, March 19, 6:30 pm, Pysanki egg decorating with Anne Harding

At the Rendezvous, 78 3rd Street, Turners Falls.

Supplies are provided

Sunday, April 7, 2 pm, “The Polish Americans” movie

PBS documentary

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls

Saturday, April 13, 10:30—12, Create Polish paper stars.

Folded Polish Stars, Art Naturally program for teens, adults, and children age 6 and up accompanied by an adult. Supplies are provided

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls

Sunday, April 14, 2 pm, Talk on Eastern European Immigration & Industrialization in Massachusetts with Dr. Robert Forrant

Robert Forrant is Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Principal historian on numerous projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lowell National Historical Park, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, his newest book, Where are the Workers: Interpreting Labor and Working-Class History at Museums and Historic Sites, with Mary Anne Trasciatti, was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2022.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Polish and other Eastern European immigrants arrived in the Connecticut River Valley where agricultural and industrial jobs awaited them. to begin new lives as small farmers and factory workers. Census records indicate that in 1880, Polish immigrants resided in Chicopee. By the early 1890s, Polish families lived in Sunderland, Northampton, Hatfield, and Ludlow. Seeking work, in 1907, Polish immigrant Frank Kugler wrote a letter to the Porter-McLeod Machine Works seeking a job. “Pardon me for my daring to bother you about my private affairs… My wife and children are living in Poland and my wishes are to have them come here to live with me and they are willing, but I shall not send for them before you advise me to. I am willing to work for you as long as my services is needed.” In the 1910 Census, Kugler, age 43, is living in Hatfield with his wife and seven children. Learn about this migration to the Connecticut River Valley.

Polish DesignsFriday, April 19, 1-5 pm, Family Craft Activities.

Include hands-on activities such as pysanki egg painting, paper cutting designs and traditional clothing and costumes that can be fitted for paper dolls, and visitors can dress up in period costumes and take a selfie, while discovering how immigrant families influenced and enhanced life in the Connecticut River Valley.

Friday, April 26, 1 pm, Nice & Easy Walk, In An Immigrant’s Footsteps

Sunday, April 28, 2 pm, Polish Costume Lecture with Susan Urban, Polish Craft and Culture specialist. 

She will discuss costumes from many regions of Poland with a regional costume map and handmade miniature samples of each costume.

In 2024, the Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center present programs and exhibits about Food, Farms, and Factories, continuing conversations about rural life in Turners Falls and Franklin County. Supported by the Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center, RiverCulture, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Montague Public Libraries. Funded by Mass Humanities through the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit greatfallsdiscoverycenter.org/foodfarmsandfactories to learn more.

The PVMA’s founder, George Sheldon (1818-1916), and his associates were early proponents of historic preservation and the recovery of information about both the Indigenous People of Pocumtuck and their ancestors, as well as the English colonists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. More recently, PVMA updated its interpretation of Native American history and culture in cooperation with Indigenous People, addressed the presence of free and enslaved Black people in Deerfield and the surrounding region, and is considering the history and culture of later immigrants, such as people from Canada, Ireland, Germany, and Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and Ukraine.