Employment of immigrants was limited because of language difficulties. In one year, records state that almost half of the population of Lesno, Poland migrated. Winona did not have enough jobs to occupy the 100′s of newly arrived immigrants who couldn’t answer doors, wait on customers, be salespeople, take direction or communicate unless the employer be bilingual. Sawmills used unskilled labor. Loggers also could. Railroads would hire temporary workers in huge numbers to manually shovel railyards and trackage because language was uncritical in shoveling snow. But employment of that sort could not meet the needs of the numbers of the immigrants arriving.
A more pathetic note was the fact that skills and talents developed for years in Poland could not be utilized in this country. Teachers, medical staff, electricians, lawyers, trades people of all sorts, then, as well as now, were and are unable to work in this country in their profession without language skills and re-certification. Now lawyers become computer technicians, teachers become hotel housekeepers, if they would even be allowed to migrate. Then, without the welfare, aid to dependent children, unemployment, English as a second language and resettlement programs of today, if you didn’t work you didn’t survive. Shoveling train tracks, stacking lumber, doing laundry was not demeaning, it was existence oriented work.
As a result, many immigrants pushed themselves beyond this area seeking land in the untamed wilderness to homestead. Potatoes, wheat, cattle, sheep could all thrive on Polish as well as English. Communities of Poles are in St. Cloud, Perham and Browersville, Minnesota; Jamestown, Scranton and Beach, North Dakota and St. Phillip and Hogeland in Montana as the search for land to homestead spread from Winona in the 1870′s thru the early 1900′s as the sawmills closed and put 1200 Polish men out of work. Winona had been their original home base in the U.S. and their relationship by blood and affinity continues to this day.