Kolodziej. Dizuk. Teltschiks. Jendrusch. Janysek.

The names on the mailboxes in the hillocks southeast of San Antonio are a cacophonous testimonal to 100 immigrant families who fled their beloved homeland more than a century ago in search of freedom.

American Polonia, they called Karnes County then. The new Poland.

Today, all that physically remains of its hub, Panna Maria -- the oldest Polish Catholic colony in the United States -- is a white clapboard church, a grocery store and a handful of abandoned, stucco homes.

But in the farms and mills that surround it, the Polish-Americans still profess strong ties with the motherland. And with the news that their relatives were risking their lives by striking in Gdansk and elsewhere, those feelings have never run higher.

F. V. Snoga, a grocer, sees it when he sings. He said that recitals by the Karnes County Polish Choir recently have begun to draw more and more elderly people worried about the safety of family members left behind.

"A lot of them come to hear us now," he said from behind the counter of Panna Maria's lone store. "They get tears flowing from their eyes when we do the old songs. And it's hard for us, too. We know how they feel."

An old woman wearing a long peasant dress and a stitched blue bonnet crinkled her nose and muttered in Polish. "The communists," she said with a heavy accent, "they will crush us again."

"We feel for them," Snoga said of those left behind. "I pray for them. But I can say nothing more. Talking gets nothing done. It can only hurt our relatives if we talk to you."

That is a widely held attitude of the Karnes County Poles. Only the night before the priest of Panna Maria's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church had officiated with eight others at a Polish mass in San Antonio held in support of the strikers. But at the rectory his niece interceded to head off any questions: "He doesn't want his name to appear. You must understand, my family's right now in the middle of it. We can say nothing."

"There are many here who should be scared," said Ben Klecka, 79, from his farmhouse porch outside Pawelekville. "You must understand. Our people are all from Upper Silesia and Cracow. That is where the trouble is now. We may have been here six generations, but some of us still hear from the old country."

Klecka's great-grandfather was a young man when he and his wife, Mavia, decided in 1854 to leave the shrine city of Czestochowa to escape religious persecution. Together, they had lugged their feather bed and other belongings on foot 200 miles from the docks of Galveston to Panna Maria, where 800 immigrants had contracted with a San Antonio banker for land.

"Ever since, we have watched what the communists have done," Klecka said. "One of my relatives -- a young, pretty little girl who was only just a baby -- she was raped by the soldiers in her family's farmhouse. My grandfather's second cousin, he was a doctor. A well-liked man. They burned his house.

"And I fear there will be violence there now. People will die in Poland.

That is the way of communism."

On the other side of a stand of trees, Helen Banduch labored over her garden. Last month she received a letter from a distant cousin in the Baltic town of Lodz.

"They say they will not stop," she said. "They say they have had it; you know, the life there is just too hard. Our people are that way. They have always stayed together when there is trouble. They are strong."