Poland · 6 Days · 9 Moments · September 2017

Eva's journi to Poland

12 September 2017

After a great sleep and a late breakfast we ventured out to Olsztyn old town centre. Like a lot of Polish cities, this one has been rebuilt in the old style. Apparently much of it was destroyed during the war but in the rebuild much of the authentic style was recreated. This is the city in which there is lots of family. The morning was spent with one of my mum's cousins who remembers going to visit my grandmother and my aunts back in 1944 before their death. She was able to describe the house and their meeting and kept us mesmerised with tales of family and what it was like to be this family in time of war. We sat and talked for many hours and then visited my great grandmother's grave. I was given a few photos from that time and as this is Poland we had to share some food.After a two hour break we were back at the cousins where there was more family, more food and much vodka and a very warm welcome. It's been an amazing time in Olsztyn which I'll never forget.
The evening was spent eating, drinking and sharing stories of family and the years lost to us all. I met Marek and Renata who are technically second cousins and whose grannie was the only sister of my grandfather, their respective spouses and their sons. Everyone was delighted that I still spoke Polish and regaled me with family stories and events going back many years. They were thrilled that Agnieszka had found us in Australia and that I made the effort to come and meet them all. It was a wonderful evening which ended with us going to Marek's flat for cake, coffee and drinks. We have a full day today and will meet my grandfather's nieces (his sister's daughters) ie the mother and aunt of Marek and Renata. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming that I'm so happy to have made this trip.
What a day. Left mikolajki in the morning in the rain and headed for Olsztyn hoping that the weather would improve and luckily it did. Olsztyn is where another arm of the family resides. A couple of panoramic stops on the Mazurian lakes and we arrived at Mamerki or Mauerwald in German which was the location of the German headquarters for the attack on the USSR. A series of 30 concrete bunkers was constructed for the needs of 40 of the most important generals and Marshals and 1500 Wehrmacht officers for this campaign. Also a 38 metre observation tower which we climbed for a view of the lakes. Due to the time spent acquainting ourselves with the tragedies of WWII we ended up being late into Olsztyn and late for our dinner with the cousins. Feeling mightily stressed we arrived at the designated restaurant to such a warm welcome that soon our lateness was a non issue.

11 September 2017

10 September 2017

Yesterday we journeyed north which included a stop over to meet Anna Winnicka a relative of my cousin with whom Alan has had some contact via internet while doing family search. We were meant to stop for coffee but found ourselves in front of a five course banquet and no way to say no. Such a very hospitable lady! After three hours we were finally able to get away and now we are on the Mazurian lakes. Gorgeous area. Staying in a lovely Pension and due to go canoeing down the river later today. The weather is beautiful and warm.
Highlights from our time in Warsaw was a trip to the Warsaw zoo specifically to see the Villa Zabinski which survived the war and was used during the war by the director of the zoo and his wife to hide some three hundred people escaping from the Warsaw ghetto. The story of the director and his wife is told in the book and film "the zookeeper's wife". A very moving story with the tag line being "I risked and gave shelter not because they were Jews but because they were oppressed and it was my human duty to help them". (Our government could use some of that compassion). Other highlights were a Dali and Warhol exhibition at the Palace of Culture, trips to visit ancestors at the cemeteries and finally 'Pawiak prison' which was SS headquarters for the incarceration and torture of Polish citizens. History can be so confronting and uncomfortable to say the least! It's been wonderful to share this with my cousin who is a joy to be with and so full of joy and laughter. Loving my time here!

8 September 2017

It's been a very full and exciting time here in Warsaw. My lovely, funny, generous cousin Agnieszka and I have been exploring Warsaw from a long lost family perspective. I have not only seen the Warsaw of everyday life but have been shown the streets and corners of this city that were once the well trodden path of my ancestors. The site of my grandfather's restaurant, the locations where family had their homes and lastly several graves that mark my history from my great grandmother's to my great grandfather's. I feel as though I am finally getting to know the city that my Mother called home. Our evenings have been filled with laughter food and much wine in the company of a truly wonderful lady Renata with a heart filled with love and generosity who helped my brother connect with my cousin when he found out we had living breathing family in Warsaw and to my delight, she has quickly become part of that family. Today we head north to connect with other relatives

7 September 2017