Traveling to Skulsk
(Note: I used dragon naturally speaking to record this, so expect some mistakes.)
Before going to Skulsk, we headed to Konin achieves to do some research on my grandmother’s family. It was my first experience with Polish archives that are maintained for preservation, opposed to being in a church rectory. Zbigniew and I were able to view some records, and despite the fact Denise could read the records, she was not allowed in. They had eight desks setup for viewing books and no one else was there. That didn’t matter. After an hour of record hunting, I stopped and left Zbigniew to his task. Denise and I walked the streets of Konin and visited a few shops and snapped some photos.
After Zbigniew finished his searches, we took another walk around Konin. It’s a non-descript city with not much to see for site seers. We stopped for lunch at Pizzeria Sinana. The Pizza was very good and the staff very friendly and helpful.
After our pizza feast, we headed to our hotel to check in, Hotel Wityng. Hotel Wityng is more like a resort for business people. It is situated on a beautiful lake making for a very nice view. The room was very comfortable, save for not having air conditioning. It was ungodly hot the two nights we were there. The hotel was very nice and the staff helpful. The wifi was horrible, which made for keeping up with my blog and photo uploads a no-go. I guess I expected better wifi service.
After checking in and freshening up, we took a drive to Skulsk to look around and do some shopping. Skulsk is a small village in midwestern Poland where my maternal grandmother came from. I had been there in 2013, but I was unable to locate anybody relating to my grandmother’s family. This time, with some more information regarding her family, I thought that maybe I’d be able to locate someone.
We stopped for supplies at Czarnecki, a small Delikatesy. We then walked up the street to the Euro Market to check it out. There the older women behind the counter noted I was speaking broken Polish and English. She inquired about why I came to the village, and with the help of Zbigniew, a good half hour conversation ensued. She had another clerk open a register so we could keep talking about my purpose in Skulsk, giving her details on my family. She replied the way most people had, having only heard of one or two of the surnames we mentioned. This confirmed my speculation that most of my grandmother’s family had either moved or been killed in WWII. She invited us to stop back tomorrow should we need more help.
We headed back towards the hotel after a long day and decided to stop at a small restaurant, Jaskowa Dolina for dinner. The place looked to be like someone’s house more than it did a restaurant. The food however was phenomenal! The Pierogi were some of the best that I had had in Poland and still rank right up there. We quickly learned that some of the small restaurants on the sides of the road outside the city had better food than some of the ones in the cities.
The following morning, we drove to visit some landmark locations I had on my check list. It included the cemeteries, churches, and villages where I had located birth, marriage or death records on my grandmother’s family. I guess you could call it a bit of a historical tour of my ancestral stomping grounds. We visited Warzymowo, Broniszewo, Piaski, Przewóz, Piotrków Kujawski,and Byton . We also walked three cemeteries trying to find gravestones that matched the surnames of my grandmother’s family or married surnames of my grandmother’s sisters. While we found a few, we could not find anyone in town that could remember any of the surnames.
In the cemetery in Skulsk, Zbigniew spoke with everyone he spotted asking if they recognized any surnames. Later after we’d spent an hour walking and photographing, people whom he had spoken with started stopping people coming in. One women flagged us down and we spoke with an elderly gentleman from Warzymowo, who had lived there his whole life. He was in his late 70’s and had come to pay respects to his family. He was wearing a suit and had rode his bike nearly 3 miles. That’s something you would never see in America.
We took a trip to the Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen, a must see for anyone vising Poland. It was my second time visiting here, but I knew Denise would love it. It was huge!
After our trip to the Basilica, we headed back to Skuslk to do something I’d talked about for many years, getting by the lake. My grandmother frequently mentioned she always wanted to be a figure skater and would walk to the lake as a child in the winter to skate. Wouldn’t you know it, on my final day in the area it was cold and rainy and the wind had picked up to well over 50 miles an hour making extremely cold considering it had been in the high 90s since we set foot in Poland. That didn’t matter however as I wasn’t leaving there till I got to touch the waters of Skulsk.
This was a very difficult and emotional part of my trip. As Denise and Zbigniew stopped at the post office in town to mail some postcards, I stayed outside and wandered the streets to take in what I believe will be my last visit to Skulsk. Skulsk will always hold a special place in my heart, but there is clearly no one left there for me to find.
I’ve paid my respects, kept my promise and left there felling like I’d completed my journey. I’m sure my grandmother is looking down on me, smiling, happy and amazed at what I’ve accomplished. Thank you Busha, without you this would have never happened!