We set off to Texas in 2009. It was just over 155 years after the first group of exiles left Silesia—a region on the border between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Throughout their history, the Silesians have had trouble defining themselves. Are they Polish? Are they German? Are they something different altogether? We wanted to discover what remained of these long removed ancestors.

We came to Panna Maria, the first Polish parish on the American mainland. We visited homes, schools, churches and bars. We were looking for Moczygba, Labus, and Janysk. Instead, we found Texans: jeans, cowboy boots, Republican views and the all-pervasive slogan, “Don’t Mess with Texas.” We learned their stories and heard tales of an old and new homeland.

Each story is a multigenerational saga interwoven with sorrow, but also a sense of joy and fulfillment. Among our heroes, we found farmers, businessmen, clergymen, musicians, and writers.

So who are the descendants of the Silesian pioneers today? We couldn’t find just one answer. But after all, we didn’t need one.

—Tomasz Liboska, in collaboration with Michal Jedrzejowski