04/11/2017 Biala Podlaska – Poland

Tuesday 11th April – Warsaw

Reluctantly after two beautiful relaxing days, we left this beautiful rural setting, all batteries (ours and Ziggy’s fully recharged) and headed for the Big Smoke – Warsaw here we come. 

We didn’t see much of the countryside over the next 100kms as we travelled only on the motorway which took us into the centre of Warsaw.  The new motorways have walls 3-4 metres high on both sides so  we didn’t see much of the scenery but it was an easy drive. 

We settled in at Camping Majawa around lunchtime (only a couple of places in Warsaw to choose from).  Very expensive compared to everywhere else we have stayed in – around $42AUD per night. 

It would have been beautiful when it opened many many years ago but now it is very run down and old and as it did not officially open until 1st May, very little had been done to it since last season – very badly maintained. 

Its location is very central to the centre of Warsaw so excellent position for sightseeing but nothing else.  Power boxes were very rusty and looked unsafe.  Bathrooms were very antiquated with no hot water most of the time – so we showered in Ziggy

We received good news – an SMS from my relatives advising that I have been verbally granted Polish Citizenship – yeah!!! – 12 months down the track and now I have my first piece of paper (yet to arrive in the mail).  Now to find out the next steps to get the end result – my passport.

Kornelia (my Niece’s daughter) and her partner Kamil met us at Camping Majawa mid Tuesday afternoon and from there we walked a short distance to the tram station which in only a few stops took us into the centre of Warsaw.  The tram and subway systems are amazing.

First a visit to Warsaw Old Town whose history goes back over 700 years.  This was bombed to the ground during World War II and has now been reconstructed from scratch using old photos and drawings. 

Symbol of Polish Patriotism – child with weapon same size as child

UNESCO has included it on its list of World Cultural Heritage.  The Royal Castle is one of the most visited attractions here.  The square is filled with cafes though today has been bitterly cold, overcast and some rain so not many people are outside.   The King Zygmunt column towers over the square – it is the oldest and highest monument in Warsaw.  The statue fell during World War II and was reconstructed in 1945.

Warsaw Old Town Square

We walked along beautiful cobbled streets and saw so many beautiful buildings – exact replicas of the old buildings and statues including the Mermaid Statue – a guardian and symbol of Warsaw.

Copernicus Monument – Warsaw Old Town
Old Warsaw Town
Ols Warsaw Town

Wednesday morning Kornelia took us to the Warsaw Rising Up Museum which is located in a former trams power station, a historical monument of industrial architecture from the early 20th century.

An amazing building by itself and the exhibits that are spread out over three floors are the best we have ever seen anywhere.   We spent nearly four hours there and learned so much about Polish history and the persecution of the Polish people, not only by Germany but Russia towards the end of World War 2.  Both Germany and Russia wanted the valuable farming land for themselves and Poland suffered and lost so many lives (around 9 million people) and their land and country because of this.

We headed back to Ziggy to tackle the traffic getting out of Warsaw to Biala Podlaska.  By train it takes less than two hours but by Ziggy we spent nearly 40 minutes travelling less than 1km. 

Four hours later we arrived in Biala where we met Barbara, Piotr and Lily (their dog or probably their second child by the way she is treated) and sat down to a traditional Polish meal – the first of so many banquets over the next week.

Thursday 13th – through Monday 17th April – Biala Podlaska

The next day was still a working day so Piotr was unable to be with us today but after a sumptuous breakfast (again traditional polish food) Barbara and Kornelia drove us to the cemetery where my grandparents were laid to rest. 

The polish people in Eastern Poland are very religious and true Catholics.  Easter is their holy time and looking after the grave sites is paramount to them.  The cemetery is located in a beautiful green rural setting in Lipinki.  Every grave has flowers and lanterns and beautiful headstones.  It was truly moving to see how well they look after their families after death. 

We drove on to the town where my father was born, Kryzwowolka, a very small farming area of only a few houses and then on to other places where he and his parents lived. 

I am a bit lost with the sequence of every day but we have twice had beautiful meals with grandma Jadwiga (Piotr’s mother).  The meals continue over many hours with visitors coming and going all day.  It is a truly beautiful time where families spend their time going from one house to another. 

They go to several daily masses starting from Easter Thursday and some of the masses go for 3-4 hours.  There is standing room only in the church.  Easter Friday and Easter Saturday are days with no meat or alcohol consumed.  We attended resurrection mass on Sunday morning with the family.  A beautiful ceremony of the resurrection of Christ followed by mass.  Once mass is over the party begins!!!

A huge meal of a dozen varieties of meat and polish dishes hit the table and so does the vodka.   A procession of family members come and go all day.  We eat and drink non stop – exhausted we went to bed in readiness of more eating and drinking and meeting new people on Monday.  I learned lots of bits and pieces about my dad and the things he did when he re-visited Poland many years ago.

Sunday afternoon at 4:50 pm it started to snow and is expected to be minus 4 degrees overnight with a max of 8 degrees tomorrow – thank heavens it is nearly summer

All shops are closed on Easter Sunday and Monday.

Cakes of all kind are a tradition here and are eaten with nearly every meal.  Barbara and Kornelia baked three massive cakes including black Forrest cake with home made black currant jam, another with jelly and berries and meringue and cream and the last, a traditional baked cheese cake.

We love the SWEET tradition but not good for the waistline.

Tomorrow we can continue with the epic struggle of getting a little further down  the track to get my Polish Passport.

Meeting my family in Poland

To Barbara Chilczuk (my wonderful and beautiful niece), Piotr (her husband) and Kornelia (their beautiful daughter and our English translator) I want to thank you so very very much for the warmth and friendship you have given Rob and myself, firstly during the last 9 months through emails and Skype calls and now for everything you have done for us and we have shared over many days.

Thank you Kamil, Magda and Margaret (Goosha) for helping with translations.  We find it difficult and embarrassing that we cannot speak many words in Polish but my mother (born in Austria) and father (born in Poland) only spoke German at home.  My mother could not speak Polish and so I didn’t learn much Polish at home.

We have met so many beautiful people, grandma Jadwiga (Piotr’s mum and the best cook in Poland except from Barbara) uncle Mirek and their children and grand children, and many more people have accepted us as family here.

Many do not remember or were too young to remember my father and it has been very difficult to get much more information about his life here in particular during World War II and the years when he met my mother in Germany where I was born.

It has been one of my main goals for our trip to find out more information about those years as my mother and father refused to talk about the war years.  After discussions with family members here and visits to Polish Museums we now understand why.