This is the fourth part of my research on finding family roots in Poland.
Read part 1: Where Did I Come From?
,
part 2: Research in the USA, and part 3: Research in Poland

The Gift of Family

Part 4. A Passion for Poland

I had long wanted to make another trip to Poland, and the opportunity presented itself for the summer of 2004 when my husband and I would be traveling to Europe for a scientific conference. Knowing that at least some traces of my family were in parish and/or civil record books, I was determined to see these records for myself. We made plans to go in June before the conference, and I followed two or three leads to find a driver and/or translator, with no success. I decided that if I could not find a translator to help me, I would at least visit the villages and see for myself the land that my grandparents had left behind.

Have you heard it said that you can find anything on eBay? One of my passions is for textiles and fiber art, and I had purchased some small weavings and blankets on my trip in 1976. Occasionally I would search eBay looking for Polish dolls because I was hoping to find some examples of the folk costumes typical of the southeastern part of Poland, but I never found anything except very old dolls dressed in the poorest of clothing.

One evening in January 2004, after a 6-month hiatus in my eBay searches, I gave it one more try. To my amazement, the perfect little doll showed up, dressed in heavily embroidered skirts and vest, a lace blouse, and red-flowered babushka. I could see that the doll herself was not special, but oh, that costume (see below)! I wrote to the seller (eBay seller name "inpassa!" ).

While discussing the doll, I mentioned that I would be in Poland to visit my ancestors’ villages, and asked if he could recommend someone who could help me with visits to the priests and civil records offices. We compared notes on the villages I wanted to visit: although Zenon now lives in Warsaw, the town where he grew up was exactly halfway between the two villages I most wanted to see, all in a radius of about 20 or 30 miles. This was an amazing coincidence! Zenon offered to help me, and said that his cousin, who had studied genealogy for 26 years, would also help.

Zenon made numerous arrangements for us, including the rental car we wanted, appointments with priests at the local parishes, and, at my special request, he also gathered textiles made by women in the Rzeszów area where my ancestors originated. We met in Krakow and the four of us spent three days on the quest for records of my family. Cezary spoke little English, so Zenon usually translated everything, but as often happens, common interests and a little sign language can often overcome language barriers.
Read the next part of the essay: Traveling Polish Roads: the Towns and Villages where my Ancestors Lived (5)

written by Nancy Maciolek Blake
2005, revised January 2006
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