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The result was that many of the Poles in America were not immigrants, but refugees. They had no interest in assimilating and becoming Americans; they needed a place to hang their hats and earn an honest living while making plans to take their country back.
This made them a very unwelcome addition to the American Catholic church, which had public-relations problems of its own at the time — half the country regarded Catholics as inherently seditious, since their primary loyalty was (their critics charged) to the Pope rather than to their country. So there was already great tension in the Polish-American community between assimilators and refugees.
There was also clear evidence that Czarist Russia was taking a strong interest in the refugee communities, and had agents provocateur in the field working to exploit those differences.
And there’s pretty good reason to suspect that Lopasky — he of the “you’re dead in three days” claim — was just such an agent. According to the Chicago Polish community’s magnificently-named newspaper Robotnik (Polish for “The Worker”), Lopaski had been the skipper of a Russian torpedo boat captured by the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War, and was a well known agent of the Russian secret police.
All of which seems to have been of considerable interest to a certain reporter at the Morning Oregonian. The paper never mentions his name, but identifies him as having been born and raised in Russian Poland. This reporter, watching the situation spiral out of control (with a great deal of help from an overzealous agent of the U.S. Secret Service), talked his editor into letting him go down to the White Eagle to get the story straight.
The resulting article, which was also run in the Evening Telegram, was like oil on troubled waters. “POLISH SOCIETY NOT ANARCHISTIC,” the headline read, adding, “ARE MERELY SOCIALISTS.”
The article also made Lopaski’s status as a suspected Russian spy clear and also pointed out, for the first time in print (so far as I have found), that Sealazckiwicz was the former president of the group he was denouncing — having been stripped of his rank and expelled from membership over disagreements about activism tactics.
After that, the story faded quickly away. The federal Secret Service agent, although he claimed to stand by his story of danger and anarchy, consistently refused to release any of the evidence he’d seized from the raid on the White Eagle, implying that it was too terrible and seditious for the public to be exposed to it. No one seems to have bought that, but it served as a cover story for him, enabling him to save face while everyone got busy forgetting the whole thing had ever happened.
TODAY, OF COURSE, the White Eagle Saloon is one of the McMenamins properties, and it’s one of the oldest taverns still in operation in Portland. One can sit at its gorgeous antique bar and nurse a glass of Hammerhead knowing that one is sitting in the establishment that, for two wild and hectic weeks 115 years ago, was known as the hottest hot spot in the nation for the forces of terror and anarchy.
With a story like that, who needs a bunch of made-up bunk about ghostly prostitutes and spooky toilet-flushings?