Gregg Trojanowski spent years traveling to Amish communities to produce material for his book, “Simply Amish Simply Said.” (Submitted photo)
A longtime fascination with the Amish led Gregg Trojanowski to publish a book about them after years of visits to their communities.
“Simply Amish Simply Said” includes 71 photos of various Amish communities taken by the Blessed Sacrament Parish member.
It was his Polish grandmother who set an example of living a simple, humble life and taught her grandson to live similarly, leading him on a path of living a happy and resourceful life.
The retired Dominican and St. Thomas More High School teacher, coach, guidance director and counselor remembered becoming enamored with the simple lives of the saints, such as St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi. In high school, he became curious about others who lived simple lives, namely the Amish, whom he saw up close as a teen on a family trip to Indiana.
“I tried to take photos of them at the corner store but learned that wasn’t a good idea, as they don’t like their pictures taken,” Trojanowski said. “I didn’t want to disrupt them either. That eventually led to further interest (while I was) in college. It was always an interest and I finally had time while I was in retirement to delve a little more into their lives.”
Several years ago, the amateur photographer took a road trip to explore the path Bonnie and Clyde took before they were killed, then traveled along historic Route 66 to California and watched the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
“Then I decided to do some research on Amish buggies and wanted to take photos of the different styles,” he said. “Over several years, I traveled to Amish communities in Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Illinois.”
Befriending Amish farmers in each of the communities, Trojanowski, 80, learned of the different buggy styles, Amish farming and gardening, and came to appreciate them and their way of life.
“I would love to own some land near the Amish and hear the clatter of the horse’s feet down the roads. I love seeing the simple way of life, and it has been very consistent all these years. They have held on to something traditional and positive,” he said. “Here we have all the convenience of gas engines and all, and they are still willing to do the hard work by hand, using horse-drawn tractors.”
Receiving a special invitation, Trojanowski attended the Horse Farms Days in Indiana, where he learned many of the Amish farming techniques.
“It was a huge convention with hundreds of Amish attending. They made me feel very comfortable and were welcoming to me. No one minded me coming there and learning their techniques,” Trojanowski said. “It was really interesting to see these farmers cultivating their farms by using (plows drawn by six to eight horses).”
A friend encouraged Trojanowski to put his notes and travel photos into a book so others might enjoy what he had learned.
“You know, in the 1970s, I owned three cars in 10 years. I think often about the planned obsolescence, and how we always had to buy new and replace items that would wear out so quickly,” he said. “The Amish seem to be very happy with the simple parts of life. I have learned to be modest, too, from my grandmother and my parents, who built a modest home. We always lived modestly, and visiting the Amish reaffirmed that it can still be done. We don’t need to be chasing materialistic items, such as those advertised on QVC and so forth. There are other alternatives to living that way, and the Amish are a great example of people who can live simply and solidly based on their religion.”
“Simply Amish Simply Said” is available for purchase at T. H. Stempers, 1125 E. Potter Ave., Milwaukee; or directly from Trojanowski at email@example.com.