Anna Pamuła, POLACOS. Polish Jews in Costa Rica – an extraordinary story
Anna Pamuła lived in Costa Rica and for six months she listened to the accounts of the Polish Jews who left Poland eighty years ago. She also visited Poland, France and Israel to find traces of her ancestors and understand why they needed to emigrate so far across the ocean.
POLACOS is a most unique story, full of unknown facts, extraordinary life stories, tears and joys of a life so different.
Abraham and Moses arrived in Costa Rica illegally in 1931, straight from the Columbian prison in which they were put for crossing the border without documents. They are saved from starvation by a Russian samovar: the only thing of value they’d brought from Poland.
A year before, the ship called Orinoco brought to Costa Rica four twenty-year-olds from Polish Kałuszyn: Mendel, Yosek, Yacobo and Yudko. They opened a sweater factory, but soon started producing swimming suits: they did not expect it to be so hot in South America.
In 1920s and 1930s over 500 Polish Jews settled in Costa Rica. At present, the community is five times that number. For Costa Ricans, a Polaco still means a ‘Jew’ or a ‘door-to-door seller’, for this is how most of those first migrants earned their living.