(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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.