Warsaw

Warsaw, in contrast to Kraków, is an extremely busy city. The streets itself in some regard remind me of New York City, packed with traffic and the sidewalks packed with people. On our first evening in Kraków I met up with a genealogy colleague, Grazyna Rychlik whom I met in the Boston genealogical research program.

She is a registered tour guide in Warsaw, and gave us a short tour of the city. Afterwards we stopped at Smaki Warszawy, Centrum for a few drinks and dessert.

The following morning, we took a four-hour tour guided tour of Warsaw, a four-hour guided walking tour. Our guide walked us around the city showing us major tourist sites. At this point in the trip I was not excited to be walking miles. Twenty-two days of “short walks” caught up with me. This was also my first experience with public bus system in Warsaw. It was very hot and uncomfortable in the buses.

Warsaw

Warsaw

Market in Warsaw

Market in Warsaw

10405451_10153610227237497_8161418921266135818_n[1]After our tour we grabbed lunch at Varso Vie. They had some amazing meals listed on their menu.

Weary and tired from travel, we walked some of the city on our own and then retreated back to our hotel till evening.

During our walk around later in the afternoon, we stumbled on a Brazilian restaurant, Browar De Brasil. So for our late dinner meal we decided to try it.

Brazilian Beer Samples

Brazilian Beer Samples

They had an amazing beer selection that I took an opportunity to try.
After dinner we went back to the hotel bar to have a few drinks. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was my cousin Gienek, who works in Warsaw. He had come to visit us!

We plan to spend the following day with him and his wife. On our last day in Poland, Gienek gave us a tour by car of Warsaw as it was raining, finally. I commented that it was Poland crying because I was leaving, something Gienek had said to me three years ago when the same situation happened.

Our main tour of the day was the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which was overwhelming. After our tour we went for dinner at Folks Gospoda. Here we encountered huge pork knuckles, and a Pierogi platter that came with five different types of pierogi, three each for a total of fifteen Pierogi. That’s a lot of Pierogi for anyone to consume!

After dinner, Gienek dropped us off at our final hotel for the night, the last for our 24 day trip, The Hampton by Hilton Warsaw Airport.

 

Krakow to Warsaw by Train

On September 10 we awoke early, packed, and headed to our final destination of Warsaw. The hotel staff  at the Krakow residence were extremely friendly and helpful during our entire stay there. They helped us get a cab from the hotel to the train station.

The cabdriver spoke English and was very friendly. We arrived at the train station and suddenly realized how extensive the train depot was. Neither of us had taken a train before, especially in a foreign country. The cabdriver went out of his way to help get us headed in the right direction by dropping us off at the correct platform. We might have gotten on the wrong train!

Even with all the signs, it was still confusing to figure out where we needed to be. Luckily we met an American couple who had traveled from Germany to Poland by train, and they helped us out.

Interior of High Speed Train

Interior of High Speed Train

Krakow Train Station

Krakow Train Station

We took a first-class, no-stop, one way train ride from Kraków to Warsaw which took about three hours. The train itself was extremely clean and very comfortable. They can get up to speed of around 125 miles an hour. In this particular train I don’t think we went past 60 or 65 mph. I would definitely use trains in Poland to go from point A to point B for long distances. You get to see a lot of the Polish countryside by taking a train.

 

View from the train

View from the train

View from the train

View from the train

We arrived in Warsaw and found it even more difficult to get out of the train station than it was to get in. It took us nearly 35 minutes to figure out exactly how to get out onto the street, the side we needed to be on.

I had been in Warsaw in 2013, but only for around four hours. I didn’t get the opportunity to see much. The view from the train station looking out over the city made it seem like I was in a metropolis. Kraków has some traffic on the streets and the is a little bit noisy at times, but Warsaw is completely the opposite. There are numerous lanes of heavy traffic, and it’s a very bustling city – extremely loud and noisy!

We grabbed a cab and took it to our hotel, the Polonia Palace, without realizing exactly how close we were to it. Looking at a map of the city, it looked like it was a ten block walk to the hotel. At this point in our trip, we were both exhausted. With the traffic that we were seeing, crossing the street with lots of luggage wasn’t an option. So we took a cab and found out it was only three blocks away. If nothing else we can say we took a cab in Warsaw. No wonder the cab drivers were laughing with each other. 🙂

Welcome to Warsaw!

Welcome to Warsaw!

Wieliczka Salt Mines

Wieliczka salt mines
Just outside of Kraków are the Wieliczka salt mines. This is another primary tourist destination for first-time visitors to Poland. Be forewarned, to walk down into the mine is not for the faint of heart.

The tour itself takes you approximately 35 km underground and takes about three hours. The initial descent down into the mine takes you down 380 stairs! Luckily there is an elevator that takes you out of the mine and this can also be used for people who can’t walk the nearly 800 to 1000 steps it takes to get to the deepest portion of the mine.

If you have any issues with claustrophobia, or don’t like tons a rock over your head this probably isn’t for you. You have the opportunity to try the different salts, from various locations as you’re walking down. There are cathedrals, statues, altars all carved out of salt throughout the mines. At the absolute bottom is the restaurant and souvenir shop.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Black Madonna of Częstochowa

On the morning of September 7, Pawel picked this up again to take us on the pilgrimage to see the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. I’m not a very religious man, and I don’t believe in coincidences. As I mentioned earlier, my maternal grandmother was the very reason why I was so interested in Poland and my Polish ancestry. Our date to take our pilgrimage was not set in stone and decided  last-minute. September 7 was the 30th anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s passing. How appropriate that our pilgrimage occurred on this date! This weighed heavily on me as we toured the Jasna Gora monastery grounds. Taking a tour of the church and seeing the opening and closing of the Black Madonna was an incredible experience.

Exterior painting of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa

Exterior painting of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa

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After a tour in Częstochowa, Paul mentioned that there were numerous ruined castles on our way back towards Kraków. He took the alternate route so we could see these amazing sites. One castle in particular Zamek Bobolice was privately owned, and had been renovated. We were told the first two floors were for tours, and the third floor was the private “summer home” residence of the owner.

Zamek Bobolice

Zamek Bobolice

There was an Inn and restaurant located right nearby, The Bobolice Inn, with a beautiful view of the castle behind it. We stopped for lunch at the restaurant. It was here that I had something called Kings Pierogi. They were made with wild boar and veil. It was also here that I experienced my first hot beer! It was completely unfiltered and had things floating around in it. It was served extremely hot and with a straw. I can tell you it’s unlike anything that I have ever had before.

Hot Beer with a straw!

Hot Beer with a straw!

Kings Pierogi

Kings Pierogi

 

 

 

Auschwitz Birkenau Museum

On September 6, Pawel arrived and picked us up to take us on a tour of Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. I had been there in 2013 to pay my respects to my family and those that had been murdered there. During my genealogy research I discovered that relatives from all four sides of my family had been victims there.

I really didn’t want to go back, because of the overwhelming heavy feeling you get while you’re there. But Denise wanted to go, and I didn’t want her not to experience and see what had happened. I think it’s important that people take this tour, regardless if you are  Polish, German, and Italian, or whatever nationality and race you are. This is a place you need to visit out of respect and for remembrance so that the atrocities that happened here never happen again.

The tour guides are very good and extremely knowledgeable. While I thought I knew a lot about what happened, maybe you really can’t understand the true nature of what happened until you’re actually there, like me.  The enormity of it.  Some of it I just couldn’t comprehend until I physically saw it, and even then, some of it is beyond comprehension.

Krakow, Poland

We spent Friday, September 4 through Wednesday, September 9 in Kraków. On some of those days we left the city with our guide Pawel, and went to some of the major tourist locations in the area.

I would love to give you a day by day synopsis of what we did in Kraków but that would be nearly impossible. In 2013 when I visited Kraków I was unable to spend much time there and knew there was alot to do. With the fiasco of our plane tickets and return date, I decided to add a few more days to our Kraków experience. I had quite an extensive list of things I wanted to see and do in Kraków, so the plane ticket mix-up actually benefited us.

Knowing a little about Kraków, I knew location was everything. I wanted to be close enough to walk to all the main tourist attractions, the main one being Main Market Square. I wanted to spend some time there. If you’ve never been to Kraków, the square itself is the focal point of the city. You could spend weeks there and never try all the restaurants that line the streets around the square.

Main Market Square

Main Market Square

I knew one place in particular that Denise would like would be the Cloth Hall. If you’re looking for souvenirs of any type, the cloth hall is the place to go.

Krakow Cloth Hall

Krakow Cloth Hall

Our hotel Kraków Residence Hotel, was about a 25-30 minute walk to the square. We did this walk at least 3 to 4 times a day. Any opportunity we could do lunch or dinner at the square in Kraków we did. By the last day we decided to try a change of pace and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant just down the street from our hotel.

The square itself is a hustling, bustling place of restaurants, vendors, musicians, break dancers, and various other forms of entertainment. One particular musician was getting a rather large following while playing in the square. He is Imad Fares and his guitar playing is amazing! ( Video1 ) ( Video2 )

There are lines of horse drawn carriage rides available around the square. They take you for quite an extensive tour around the city.

View from the carriage.

View from the carriage.

We spent the better part of one day touring and seeing the sights of Wawel Royal Castle. The tour of the castle is broken up into nine parts, and we toured six of them. Many are limited to the number of people that can go in per day at a certain time. If you’re visiting Kraków, this is your primary tourist location.

View from Tower in Krakow

View from the tower in Krakow

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Royal Castle

Tower outside Wawel Royal Castle

Tower outside Wawel Royal Castle

The day after we arrived in Kraków I finally got the opportunity to meet Zenon from PolishOrigins. I’d spoken with Zenon a few times during our trip, as he called to check to make sure that everything was going well with our customized tour. Zenon had been on tour with another group for the first part of our trip. He had only one day off and took the time to come to meet Denise and I for dinner. It was our first experience dining in the Jewish district of Kraków, and the food was absolutely amazing. His visit spoke volumes to us in regards to the PolishOrigins business. You don’t find many tour companies whose owners take the time to come to meet you and keep in contact with you the way he did. PolishOrigins definitely strives to make sure that your trip expectations are met and/or exceeded.

On September 5, my cousin Kazmierz and his wife came from Olesnica to meet us for lunch/dinner. Zbigniew took the time out of his day to come with us and act as our translator. We had a great time dining, talking and laughing at a very unique restaurant.

After dinner Kazmierz mentioned and old monastery The Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec that served great coffee, so we headed there. Standing by the wall looking down at the river below was a magnificent view.

View from the monastery

View from the monastery

After bidding my family farewell, we headed back to Kraków . When we arrived we noticed a long line of people waiting on the street near a building called, Lody na Starowiślnej. We asked Zbigniew what was going on there, and he replied it ice cream/yogurt. Being the curious sort, we decided to try it, and waited in line for 15 minutes. It was well worth the wait! (check out the link for their facebook page above. The photo at the top shows how long their lines usually are.)

We spent nearly five days in Kraków, and while some of those days we were off viewing other destinations, I still feel like I had enough time there. Kraków is an absolutely beautiful city and you really need like a month to take it all when. Maybe next trip. 🙂

We left Kraków on Thursday, September 10 via train and headed to our final destination of Warsaw.

Pysznica, Kopki, Rudnik & Lublin Poland

On Saturday morning, August 29, we left Olesnica and started our journey towards Pysznica.

On our way we had scheduled a stop at the Open Air Museum in Tokarnia. (traditional, wooden architecture from the Kielce region.) It had buildings from various time periods, some made with wood, some with straw. It was setup similar to a small colony. It was quite a walk and we didn’t get the opportunity to see the whole thing.

Old Church at the Open Air Museum

Old Church at the Open Air Museum

Straw roof building at the Open Air Museum

Straw roof building at the Open Air Museum

After a short break for a beverage, we started out again towards Pysznica.

 

Streets of Pysznica

Streets of Pysznica

Growing up as a child, I didn’t really know much about my paternal ancestry. My paternal grandfather had passed away five years before I was born, and like most Polish families, not much information was passed down regarding my grandfather’s family. It wasn’t until 2012 with my genealogy work that I finally was able to learn something about my paternal ancestry. I’d been to Pysznica in 2013 on my trip and fell in love with my family from there. I couldn’t wait to go back and see them again!

I had done a little bit of genealogy research while I was in Pysznica last time. However, there were still some documents and information that I needed. This time I knew it would be different because not only could I do research, but I had Zbigniew with me.

The research time paid off thanks to Zbigniew, and I was able to finally trace my paternal grandfather’s, mother’s side quite extensively. At the end of the evening after finishing up our genealogy research and eating dinner, we had to bid farewell to Zbigniew.

Zbigniew, who was our tour guide and driver for the first 10 days of our trip, was absolutely phenomenal. We can’t give him high enough praise. The way he interacted with us, his personality and his demeanor fit us perfectly. His passion and knowledge of genealogical records in Poland amazed me. I had the opportunity numerous times to see him work, and Denise commented, “his eyes lit up when the books were opened.” When he is speaking with people, he has a gift to be able to get them to help with whatever we were inquiring about, and he is obviously explaining the situation so well that they are jumping to try to help. When we needed a translator, for our conversations between my Polish cousins that did not speak English, he was invaluable. I would highly recommend him to anyone who is considering taking a tour with PolishOrigins!

Prior to coming to Poland in 2015 I started a Mierzwa surname project. From DNA testing,  I matched and was contacted repeatedly regarding the Mierzwa surname. Many of these people had families that were coming from north and south of Pysznica. While visiting, I was able to go to some of the graveyards and record archives to help determine our family connections.

Church from 1603 in Jezowe

Church from 1603 in Jezowe

Jezowe
We traveled to Jezowe to visit the parish archives. My paternal grandmother’s father was born in Jezowe. It was here that I experienced the opposite side of the  genealogical coin.

There is a priest in Poland who has allowed me to come to his parish registry at any time and allowed me to view the archive books. He’s given me trust and allowed me to view the books unmonitored. I appreciate that trust and he has become a very good friend, one whom when I travel to Poland, I must go see.

Unfortunately, when I visited the parish of Jezowe, my experience was not a pleasant one. I clearly was wasting this priest’s time on what he thought was meaningless. While he did look to the books for me, he required that I sit in front of him at his desk and listen as he read off each birth listing for a three-year time span. If you’ve never had the opportunity to look to these books, that is a long time to sit. It was a frustrating and disappointing experience.

While walking around Jezowe, Gienek spoke to a few of the local residents and discovered that the parish that we had visited was not the original one.

The church had been destroyed during some of the wars, and was moved to its current location. He was given directions and we headed off to a small memorial to tour the actual ground original parish had once stood.

Memorial commemorating and celebrating the first parish location in Jezowe.

Memorial commemorating the first parish location in Jezowe.

 Rudnik nad Sanem and Kopki

We took a day trip to visit the towns and villages of Rudnik nad Sanem, Kopki. Much of my research for the Mierzwa surname project showed that my DNA relatives had come from these locations. My cousin Gienek, Denise, and I, armed with cameras, walked the cemeteries at Kopki and Rudnik, taking photographs of the gravestones for my DNA relatives. Most of the time this would seem like a simple task, but combined with temperatures nearing 90, it was a little more difficult.

Cemetery in Kopki, Poland

Cemetery in Kopki, Poland

Lublin
On September 1, we took a day trip to Lublin, Poland with my cousin Gienek, who acted as are driver and tour guide. 🙂

Lublin Castle

Lublin Castle

We decided to take the tour of The Royal Castle of Lublin. This included a walk into the castle tower which at one time was used as a prison. It gives a stunning view of the city of Lublin below.

Lublin Castle Tower

Lublin Castle Tower

View from Lublin Castle Tower

View from Lublin Castle Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I was in Lublin Poland in 2013, I discovered an artist’s shop near Lublin Square who’s surname is the same as my maternal grandfather’s name. I never had the opportunity to meet the artist since she was not in the shop at the time. Obviously this is a married in connection, but nonetheless, the same surname is my maternal grandfather’s. So I decided this time to see if the shop was open and unfortunately it was not. Maybe next time I’m in Poland I will finally get the opportunity to meet her and her husband. We are leaving it up to fate.

After a morning filled with travel, and sightseeing, we decided to stop at a Czech restaurant, Ceska Pivnica. It was my first experience of authentic Czechoslovakian food. Considering Denise is part Czechoslovakian, we wanted to experience what the food would be like. I had the opportunity here to try my first Czech beer, Opat. The food and the experience was absolutely amazing and I would go back to that restaurant without hesitation.

Up to this point, the entire time we were traveling in Poland the temperature was in the high 90s and extremely humid and muggy. This day in particular was much worse, nearing 98°. In midafternoon we decided to grab some cold drinks and ice cream at Atrium – Ristorante Pizzeria with my cousin Elizabeth, who had come to meet us.

After a few hour visit with my cousin, we bid her farewell and headed back towards Pysznica. On the way back, we decided to take another trip south of Pysznica to see Klyzow, Wólka Tanewska and Ulanow Poland. Here we took more time to see some of the old churches and photographed gravestones in some of the cemeteries for my DNA relatives.

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If you’re visiting Poland, and know where your ancestors came from, I would highly suggest visiting those locations. I spent a considerable amount of time walking around Pysznica on foot, shopping in the local stores, talking with the staff and dining in local restaurants.

Small store I visited frequently in Pysznica.

Small store I visited frequently in Pysznica.

Wherever I’m there, I try to visit the family farm that my ancestors have owned and lived on for the last 400 years. That itself is surreal, knowing that many generations of my paternal family walked that very ground.

Original family farm

Original family farm

Prior to leaving, it became somewhat of a joke between my cousin Gienek and I stating, “Don’t you know who we are? We’re Mierzwa’s, we ruled this town!” We were able joke and say that because at one point in time, our ancestors were actually mayors of the city.

Sandomierz, Koprzywnica and Taranow

On Thursday, September 3 we awoke early and got prepared to meet our new tour guide for the second part of our trip, Pawel Ciaptacz.

Pawel arrived and helped us say our goodbyes to my cousins’ mother, who we both love dearly. I feel blessed to have made contact with my family in Pysznica, and been able to spend so much time with them over my last few trips. Walking on ancestral grounds, getting to see where your family came from, and where they lived in hearing stories about their ancestral past makes it difficult to want to leave.

After our goodbyes, we headed out and started our drive towards Sandomierz. Sandomierz was only 45 minutes away from Pysznica. So it was a short drive, something we looked forward to after having been in the car so much over the last week.

Entrance Tower Gate of Sandomierz

Entrance Tower Gate of Sandomierz

Pawel, our guide, was well-versed in the history of Sandomierz and I was very impressed. He knew the city well. He took us for a tour of Sandomierz which included the town square, touring a museum, and visiting the Cathedral Basilica in Sandomierz.

Cathedral Basilica

Cathedral Basilica

We also took a tour of the underground tourist route. It is the old storage for the market square. They couldn’t keep all their wares in the square, they had to store them somewhere. Each tent or shop had their own storage area. It’s quite an extensive walk underneath the city.  If you wandered in alone, you could easily get lost. It was quite an amazing experience, and something I’ve never done before.  If you’re ever in Sandomierz, I would highly suggest taking this tour.

tunnel in the underground tourist route

tunnel in the underground tourist route

Part of an unforgettable experience with Pawel, was driving down some of very narrow streets of Sandomierz. When I say narrow, if there was an oncoming vehicle heading towards you, you literally had no where to pull over to get out of the way. I even recall asking him before he pulled down it, “are you sure you want to go this way”? This road wasn’t a short road by any means, which made the experience even more harrowing. But it made for some great laughs.

Where do you pull over?

Where do you pull over?

We also able to take a small mini tour of an area where the ground had eroded you could see layers and layers of Sandomierz dirt. Now this may not seem interesting to some, but having walked it and seen it it was very interesting.

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While having lunch at Pokusa Restaurant, Pawel mentioned that Sandomierz was well known for its mead. He suggested that we try it. I can tell you I was a little apprehensive because it became a running joke it was going to cost an arm and a leg, but for 20 zloty it was well worth it. I’ve never tasted anything like this before in my life and I can tell you if you ever have the opportunity to try Sandomierz mead, do it, you will not regret it. Unfortunately, we discovered after the fact that you cannot purchase it any where else other than in Sandomierz. It’s that exclusive and difficult to get.

Sandomierz Mead!

Sandomierz Mead!

Our accommodations for the night were at the Dwór Dwikozy.

After a full day of sightseeing, we returned to our rooms for short break before going forward dinner at the Imperial Residence restaurant.

Koprzywnica
We left Sandomierz in the morning and headed out to our next stop of Tarnow. On our way, Pawel mentioned a very old church and monastery that we should stop and take a look at. We arrived in the city of Koprzywnica. The parish here had been in place since 1200. When we had arrived there was a group of people on a tour bus that were just leaving. Pawel noticed somebody standing outside the parish and went and spoke with him. A few minutes later Pawel came back and told us that the gentleman was the caretaker of the church, and offered to give us a private tour. This man took over an hour of his time to show us every detail of the church and gave us one of the best and most thorough tours we had of a church. He was very proud of the church and its history and he knew it very well.

Taranow
Taranow is not a very big city by any means. This was just a stopover in between going to Kraków.

Streets of Taranow

Streets of Taranow

We spent roughly around three hours in Taranow and I’m sure Pawel didn’t expect for us to request none other than, pizza for lunch. I know it sounds funny that I kept trying different pizzas throughout Poland, but one can only eat so many Pierogi! We stopped at an Italian restaurant – pizza place called Pizzeria “MARANTO
I have to tell you, I have seen toppings for pizzas in Poland that I have never seen in American before. Pawel ordered a chocolate pizza. While it sounded intriguing I don’t like chocolate enough to try it on my pizza, but I understand it was very good.

Polish Pizza Anyone?

Polish Pizza Anyone?

 

We visited a few old churches and monasteries outside of Taranow, and even stumbled on a movie being filmed. Armed guards with automatic weapons were standing outside and around the area being filmed in. They looked like a SWAT team.

It was also in Taranow that I experienced my first UPS driver incident in Poland. Let me tell you if you think the UPS drivers go fast and drive crazy in the United States, you should come the Poland. Stay off the sidewalks! LOL interestingly enough, their vans are made by Mercedes.

Streets of Taranow

Streets of Taranow

Our tour of Taranow only lasted around four hours. After having seen everything we could in the city, we started our drive towards Kraków.

On the way Pawel mentioned the old ruined castle tower in Czchów. The walk up to the tower was difficult. This castle itself was built in the 14th century and has an amazing panoramic view of the Valley of the Dunajec and the old town of Czchów.

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Castle tower in Czchów

 

View from the tower grounds.

View from the tower grounds.

The long walk to the tower.

The long walk to the tower.

 

After a tour of the tower, we finished our trip and headed to Kraków. Pawel dropped us off at our hotel, Krakow Residence, where we would be staying for the next five days. We bid farewell to Pawel, but knew we would be seeing him in a few days for an upcoming pilgrimage to see the Black Madonna in Cczęstochowa.

Olesnica and Pacanow, Swietokrzyskie Poland

(follow along with a map of our trip: http://bit.ly/1U552Gcg)

Meeting my family in Olesnica.

To say I was nervous and excited was an understatement. I’ve heard stories about my family in Poland since I was a child, and I had a vast collection of old photographs that I believed were of my grandfather’s family. When we arrived, Kazmierz was waiting outside for us. I couldn’t believe my eyes as Kazmierz looked identical to my mom’s late brother Pete. After a brief greeting, Kazmierz looked somewhat confused as we headed inside.

Denise, Mike, Cecelia, Kazmierz

Denise, Mike, Cecelia, Kazmierz

We sat down at the kitchen table and Zbigniew proceeded to explain who we were. Kazmierz didn’t realize there was anyone else coming other than Zbigniew to talk about Stanislaw Glowniak. Somehow that got lost in the communication. As they spoke, I politely opened a folder and pulled out a photo of what I believed was Kazmierz’s mother and father. I’d been waiting all my life for confirmation of what I’d been told. As Kazmierz took the photo, his face lit up and he smiled as he and said in Polish, “to jest moja matka i ojciec! i siostry krok!” Suddenly he realized that I was a direct blood relative. He couldn’t believe I had come all that way to find and meet him! He knew there was family in America, but when my grandfather passed in 1961, communication was lost and the family had no idea how to locate us. Now, fifty-four years later, here I was. We spent a better part of the afternoon getting to know one another, exchanging family stories and history and dining on some amazing Polish food.

Later in the afternoon, we took a visit to Edward Glowniak and his family. Edward’s father was Tomasz Glowniak, my grandfather’s other brother that remained in Poland. I was overwhelmed and still have difficulty explaining the feelings that I had while meeting my family. Many of the stories that I heard about my family in Poland were coming to life. Kazmierz and Edward were recanting stories of old days in Poland, giving me some information on my grandfather that I never knew.

Mike, Edward, Kazmierz

Mike, Edward, Kazmierz

As it got towards nightfall, we were going to be heading back to our hotel but were requested to come stay at Kazmierz’s home for the remaining days of our visit in Olesnica. I headed back to the hotel and packed up. It was a day that I will absolutely never forget.

The following morning, we drove to Olesnica to Kazmierz home. We took a trip during the day to the cemetery to pay respects to my ancestors. A unmarked grave that I had found in 2013, was indeed that of my great-grandfather Michael Glownaik.  As I stood there I realized I was the first descendant of the American family to have visited the grave.

Grave of my great grandfather, Michal Glowniak

Grave of my great grandfather, Michal Glowniak

We then went to the town hall to look into some genealogy records I’ve been wanting to find. I was finally able to confirm a story that my mom’s older sister Julia, was indeed named after my grandfather’s mother Julianna Glowniak (nee Strzelecka). Apparently he had gotten word that his mother was sick, and when his daughter was born on July 7, 1920 he named her after his mother. I was able to validate the story with the death record. Julianna had passed on July 9, 1920, two days after the birth of her granddaughter.

In the afternoon, after dining with Kazmierz, we took a trip to Pacanow, home of the fabled character Koziołek Matołek. Every where you look there is a goat!
Pacanow
Our next stop was the church in Olesnica. A family story that had been passed down from my grandfather was that his father Michael was doing masonry work atop the church, slipped, and fell to his death back in 1901. My grandfather was working with him and was only seven years old. Unfortunately, we were never able to verify that story. That very story is what prompted me to find my polish family at the request of my mother and aunt. It started my genealogy passion.

As we were walking away from the church, the church bells started ringing. I made everyone stop as I quickly realized that I was the first American descendent to hear those church bells since my grandfather. I recorded them so my mom and my family could hear them.

Parish Olesnica

Parish Olesnica

Kazmierz then took me for a ride through Olesnica and showed me where his family had lived, and the birth home of my own grandfather.

Birth home of my grandfather.

Birth home of my grandfather.

After that we headed to Edward’s house for an evening of festivities. The food and the vodka flowed freely. Later in the evening I made a Skype call to my mom and her sister in the United States, so they could meet their Polish cousins. My mom and aunt both immediately started crying. They couldn’t believe that I had found my grandfather’s family.

Glowniak family relations reunite!

Glowniak family relations reunite!

After the Skype call we went back to celebrating. It was a late, amazing and wonderful night. In the morning after numerous photos and goodbyes, we headed out on the road to our next destination, Pysznica.

Mike, Kazmierz and our amazing guide, Zbigniew!

Mike, Kazmierz and our amazing guide, Zbigniew!

Kotuszow, Poland

(follow along with a map of our trip: http://bit.ly/1U552Gcg)

On Thursday morning August 27th, we had breakfast and headed towards Olesnica, the hometown of my maternal grandfather. Prior to coming to Poland in 2013, I had done extensive genealogical research on my family from that area and found that my great grandfather Michal Glowniak was born in the town of Kotuszow, Poland.  His father, Szymon Glownak was listed as the organist of the church of Kotuszow, where Michal and his siblings were born.

Kotuszow

Zbignew suggested that we stop in Kotuszow prior to going to Olesnica. Kotuszow was only two miles south of our hotel, so it was a perfect location to explore the area. When we arrived in the middle of Kotuszow, we spotted the church and pulled off to see if we could look inside. As we were walking towards the front of the church there were two couples standing out front. Three of them had started to walk away, but one elderly gentleman stopped and spoke with Zbignew. After a brief conversation he literally almost ran across the street. I asked Zbignew where he was going and he commented that this gentleman was the caretaker of the church. When he learned my family had lived in the area he offered to show us inside.

It’s a surreal feeling being in a church that was built in 1661. As we walked inside, the caretaker pointed out certain areas of the church to us and gave us a full tour. You could tell he was proud of the church and of the area. Zbignew asked him about my family, and while he did not recognize the name from the area, he did know that there were some Glowniaks in Pacanow and Olesnica. We spent almost an hour getting a tour of the church and its surroundings. One thing he pointed out to us as we were standing outside, was a machine gun that had been attached to the church tower during World War II. It was left there as a reminder of what had happened. We thanked the caretaker and I was so touched that what he had done I asked if I could take a picture with him. He was shocked and graciously accepted. We thanked him again and headed out towards Olesnica.

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