test final poland
My grandmother was given away to save money. My great-grandfather, Petras “Peter” Gilles died when my grandmother was 9 mos old. No insurance/income & 4 hungry kids so my great-grandmother, Bertha decided to give my grandmother away to lessen the family burden & offer Martha a better life with her childless aunt & uncle. But my grandmother sobbed for days--family gossip says she may also have become ill--so back she went.
Bertha never forgave my grandmother for returning & scapegoated her for the rest of her life. (Bertha, you bitter woman!) This, in turn, made my grandmother long for the father she never knew. Sadly, anytime Martha asked about her father, my great-grandmother would refuse to speak of him. This only made my grandmother pine for him more.
My mother decides to honor her long past mother by finding out more about Peter. A year of research is done. Family still living in Poland is found along with Peter's family farmland in Lithuania! My mother invites everyone in the family for a 2-week genealogy trip to visit. My brother Doug, his wife Karyn, my second cousin Patty & I agree to go. My mother decides to bring a picture of her mother on our trip to show her Peter's people & the land from which he came. <eyes welling up>
My great-grandfather, Petras “Peter” Gilles died when my grandmother was 9 months old. With no insurance/income & 4 hungry kids, my great-grandmother decided to give my grandmother away to lessen the family burden & offer her a better life with her childless aunt & uncle. But my grandmother sobbed for days—family gossip says she may also have become ill— so back she went.
My great-grandmother became bitter & never forgave my grandmother for returning. Scapegoated her for the rest of her life, my grandmother longed for the father she never knew. Sadly, anytime my grandmother asked about her father, my great-grandmother would refuse to speak of him. This only made my grandmother pine for him more.
My mother decides to honor my long deceased grandmother by finding out more about her father, Peter. A year of research is done & family still living in Poland is found along with Peter's family farmland in Lithuania! Immediately, my mother invites everyone in the family for a 2-week genealogy trip to Poland & Lithuania. My brother Doug, his wife Karyn, my second cousin Patty & I agree to go.
My mother decides to bring this picture of her mother on our trip to show her Peter's people & the land from which he came. <eyes welling up>
My very first airport welcome sign
The very cute and sweet Agata Sturgulewski, a descendent of my great-grandmother's sister meeting us at the Warsaw Chopin Airport. I cannot express how welcoming and loved that sign made me feel.
The ever dapper Stefan (Agata's then-boyfriend & now-husband!)
1st potato pancakes in Poland, but...
...not my last. I am an ovolactovegetarian which means I don't eat meat or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy.
The concept of vegetarianism is understood and easily communicated with phrases like: "Jestem wegetarianką" (I am a vegetarian) and "Czy w tym jest mięso?" (Is it with meat?)
Unfortunately, vegetarian dishes were difficult to find so my go-to dish became potato pancakes and other potato dishes. Delicious at first especially the dish you see here, but no more potatoes for me for quite some time.
Funky Polish street art
Gay pride parade
A gay or lesbian lifestyle is not treated well in Poland so the police were out in force to offer protection.
The people in the parade seemed quite surprised and happy when we clapped and yelled our support.
Statue with a living hat
Beautiful statue, but what I loved most was finding the bird on top preening itself with its feathers extended.
Standing underneath the dramatic pillars of the Teatr Wielki—Opera Narodowa (Grand Theater-National Opera). Love the architectural lines and the hooves of the rearing horses on top.
Stare Miasto (Warsaw Old Town)
"Warsaw was deliberately annihilated in 1944 as a repression of the Polish resistance to the Nazi German occupation. The capital city was reduced to ruins with the intention of obliterating the centuries-old tradition of Polish statehood. The rebuilding of the historic city, 85% of which was destroyed, was the result of the determination of the inhabitants and the support of the whole nation."
From UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites where Warsaw Old Town is now listed as "an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century."
Just copying the text above brought tears to my eyes.
I have never been prouder to be Polish.
Inside the Archikatedra św. Jana (St. John's Archcathedral)
Built in the 14th century, it is one of the oldest churches. It too was leveled during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of three cathedrals in Warsaw, but the only one which is also an archcathedral (i.e., chief church of all Roman Catholic basilicas, cathedrals, and other churches). Along with the city, the archcathedral has been listed by UNESCO as of cultural significance.
While the stained glass was beautiful, I was entranced by the architecture.
One of my favorite architectural photos to take: a chandelier.
Inside Archikatedra św. Jana (St. John's Archcathedral).
Interesting statue near St. John's Archcathedral.
Standing in front of the Old Town (a UNESCO heritage site).
From left to right: Stefan, Agata (a descendant of my great grandmother's sister), my brother, Doug and his wife, Karyn.
Statue of the Syrenka (Mermaid)
The mermaid is the protector of Warsaw.
There are many different legends of how the mermaid came to be the city’s protector, but the story I was told was...
Two mermaid sisters swam across the Baltic Sea. One swam to Copenhagen and the other down the longest river in Poland. This newly Polish mermaid arrived to wriggle out of the bit of water which borders Old Town. Local fishermen fell in love with her, but one greedy man kidnapped her planning to exploit her sirenlike singing voice. His dastardly plan was foiled when her haunting voice was overheard and the local townspeople helped her to escape. The Syrenka then swore to protect Warsaw forever hence her defensive stance, sword and shield. (The bird resting on the sword is just a live added bonus.)
Lord Governor of the Pigeons
This gentleman ruled a large flock of pigeons in the center of Warsaw Old Town.
He was so full of glee to introduce his bird community to everyone. He placed just a few breadcrumbs in the little girl's hand and she started grinning ear-to-ear because of all the flying pigeons. Her enjoyment fueled his enjoyment and it was a lovely sight to see.
Side note: Did you know a group of flying pigeons is called a kit?
Kolumna Zygmunta (Sigismund’s Column)
Built in 1644 to commemorate King Sigismund III Vasa. While Old Town was leveled during WWII, this statue is original and stands 72 feet in the air. It is one of Warsaw’s most famous landmarks and one of the oldest secular monuments in northern Europe.
My sister-in-law, Karyn. She was looking off in the distance and I insisted she pose for me because I loved how the light touched her face.
Typical street in Warsaw, but who is that in the distance? It's my mom and my second cousin, Patty.
From the top, that's me, my sister-in-law, Karyn and my brother drinking a LITER of Tyskie Książęce Zlote Pszeniczne in the biggest beer mugs we had ever seen. The mugs were so large that Karyn and I needed to hold them with two hands.
(A delicious hefeweizen, but that's a little more than a freakin' quart of beer each!)
As we walked down the street en masse, it began to drizzle so Patty wrapped her scarf around her head. When I told her she now looked Muslim, she began to laugh and I captured this pic at just the right moment.
Sign warning of malformed children holding lollipops?
Nope, it's just a boring "przejście dla pieszych jest szczególnie uczęszczane przez dzieci."
You don't read Polish? Ok, ok. It means "pedestrian crossing used by children."
Giant mysterious hand on the balcony of the Collegium Nobilium
Founded in 1740, the Collegium Nobilium was originally an elite boarding school run by Piarist monks and one of the predecessors of Warsaw University. It was almost completely destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising. Rebuilt after the war, it is now a theater.
My mom in Warsaw as rain begins to fall.
Teatr Wielki—Opera Narodowa (Grand Theater-National Opera)
Built in 1825, it too was razed during WWII and rebuilt.
We were lucky enough to get a peek inside as well.
No idea what this building is, but the pink coloring against a dark blue sky was mesmerizing.
Warsaw street art
Macro shot of beautiful flowers on my great great grandmother's sister's descendant's porch. (Yep, that's a mouthful.)
Each bud was smaller than my pinkie.
Now we begin
One of the main purposes of this genealogical trip: Sitting down with Agata (on left), my mom begin writing tons of notes to help fill in all of the gaps in our family's history.
Agata is the descendant of my great grandmother's sister.
These 3 pictures neatly sum up our visit with the descendants of my great grandmother's sister
1. Drinking Debowa Vodka, a rye vodka aged in an oak barrel--you can see a little sliver of the oak in each bottle.
2. Sharing family photos--that's my mom and Agata cradling a picture of my Grandmother in their joined hands.
3. Eating wonderful food prepared by Alina, Agata's mother and then toasting to her and our families with more Debowa Vodka. (Bottom pic from left to right: Grzegorz-Agata's father; my brother, Doug; Karyn, my sister-in-law and Patty, my second cousin.)
A statue erected of Pope John Paul II. A Polish native, his visit was hugely important to the Polish people and was a historical event as he was the first Roman Catholic pontiff to visit a (then) Communist-ruled country.
The boat touring company was quite proud to tell us that the Pope had taken one of their boats on a tour as well.
Well, hello Doug and Karyn!
That good looking couple is my sister-in-law and brother patiently waiting to board a boat.
Notice the swan's leg?
None of us had ever seen such a thing before, but apparently it's like us crossing our legs and also functions as a temperature control absorbing the sun's heat.
I love this kind of trivia!
Can you guess the only reason I love this pic?
It's cause I spotted a scuba diver far along the banks of the canal.
I was so excited pointing and yelling that my family rushed over to see what wondrous thing I had found. Their response when I pointed out the diver? "Beth, that's very nice," said with an accompanied eye roll.
When I told Patty she looked like an elegant film star from the mid 1900's, I was lucky enough to catch her as she flashed me a huge smile and whipped her scarf around.
While it's not the best pic of either one of us, I love this selfie cause it's me and my bro.
Karyn and my mom soaking up some sun lounging on the boat.
Agata's mom, Alina makes a beautiful appearance. Such a warm and friendly woman.
My gorgeous 70-odd year old mother!
Stefan and Agata enjoying the sun on our boat trip. I loved how they relaxed into one another holding hands.
It's a dancing Stefan on a boat!
Before I visited Poland, I expected industrial post-Soviet bleakness and was so surprised by the beauty.
I think Doug looks like that an old timey baseball player here.
My first travel via a lock
We traveled among the different bodies of water on this boat trip via two different locks. So interesting to see how it worked:
The captain would maneuver the boat inside this small area and then disembark. He then shut a gate behind us so we were enclosed by gates on either side. The captain would then raise or lower the boat from one level to another by admitting or releasing water.
In this pic, he is raising the boat by letting in water so we can travel to the next lake.
They all hated me making them stand there for pictures, but when I saw them walking over this bridge of stairs I just had to insist.
One mad mallard!
Side note: Before this trip, I had no idea that ducks could have purple plumage. When I noted this to my Polish family, they were surprised that ducks in the US had green feathers.
Pretty canalscape. (Yes, I've made up a new word.) I loved the lily pads trailing behind the row boat.
"[Dedicated to] The memory of the fallen soldiers of the Polish underground in the borderlands of the Second Republic in years 1944-1954"
This trip was a very real reminder of the evil that the Polish people have endured over the years especially during WWII.
A Mangle of Dogs
Patty and I were entranced by the odd lighting this evening and began what we thought would be a short 15 min stroll and ended up being a 5.5 hour hike in scary countryside.
At one point, we were frightened out of our wits by what Patty screamed as she ran away was "a mangle of dogs." (Isn't that just the best description for a group of vicious dogs? Only Patty would find such a great descriptor as she's screaming in terror.)
What the Hell was This Light?!?
The sun had set hours ago.
The moon was behind us.
So what the hell was this light? Patty and I couldn't figure it out, and it made our 5.5 hour night trek that much scarier.
Beautiful Mural in the Breakfast Nook
We stayed at Folwark Hutta in the Suwalki region. It was a beautiful reconstruction of an 18th century abode in Wigry National Park.
Stunning Vista Behind Folwark Hutta (Our Hotel).
I was surprised to see so much water in Poland. When I think of Poland, lakes and rivers don't immediately come to mind. They should...especially here in the Masurian Lake District.
Patty swimming among the lilies in the Pojezierze Mazurskie (Masurian Lake District).
Polish Hobbit Hole?
Nope, it's where they store their trash at our hotel, Folwark Hutta.
Our last day in Poland before moving onto Lithuania.