Chapter 5 - BEFORE YOU READ How do we judge the people...

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B EFORE Y OU R EAD How do we judge the people around us — by their money, wealth and possessions? Or is there something of more enduring value to look for in a person? • This story is a sensitive account of how a poor young girl is judged by her classmates. Wanda Petronski is a young Polish girl who goes to school with other American children in an American town. These other children see Wanda as ‘different’ in many ways. Can you guess how they treat her? Read the information in the box below. Find out more about this community (or about a related topic) from an encyclopedia, or the Internet. The Polish-American Community in the United States The first Polish immigrants arrived in America in 1608, but the largest wave of Polish immigration occurred in the early twentieth century, when more than one million Poles migrated to the United States. The Polish State did not exist at that time, and the immigrants were identified according to their country of origin rather than to ethnicity. They were identified as Russian Poles, German Poles and Austrian Poles. One of the most notable Polish-American communities is in Chicago and its suburbs; so Chicago is sometimes called the second largest ‘Polish’ city in the world, next only to Warsaw, the capital of Poland. Polish-Americans were sometimes discriminated against in the United States, as were the Irish, Italians, and Jews. According to the United States 2000 Census, 667,414 Americans of age five years and older reported Polish as the language spoken at home, which is about 1.4 per cent of the people who speak languages other than English, or 0.25 per cent of the U.S. population.
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64 First Flight T ODAY , Monday, Wanda Petronski was not in her seat. But nobody, not even Peggy and Madeline, the girls who started all the fun, noticed her absence. Usually Wanda sat in the seat next to the last seat in the last row in Room Thirteen. She sat in the corner of the room where the rough boys who did not make good marks sat, the corner of the room where there was most scuffling of feet, most roars of laughter when anything funny was said, and most mud and dirt on the floor. Wanda did not sit there because she was rough and noisy. On the contrary, she was very quiet and rarely said anything at all. And nobody had ever heard her laugh out loud. Sometimes she twisted her mouth into a crooked sort of smile, but that was all. Nobody knew exactly why Wanda sat in that seat, unless it was because she came all the way from Boggins Heights and her feet were usually caked with dry mud. But no one really thought much about Wanda Petronski, once she sat in the corner of the room. The time when they thought about Wanda was outside of school hours — at noon-time when they were coming back to school or in the morning early before school began, when groups of two or three, or even more, would be talking and laughing on their way to the school yard. Then, sometimes, they waited for Wanda — to
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Chapter 5 - BEFORE YOU READ How do we judge the people...

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