The main reason I went to Poland was to meet the descendants of my grandfather John’s brother, August, who stayed in Poland in the town of Dabrowka Dolna. I had been corresponding with the family for about 15 years. But I also wanted to visit the towns of all my grandparents. Zenon picked me up at the airport and we drove to Kobyle, the ancestral home of my grandmother, Mary Deja.
We stayed two nights at a bed and breakfast and which served the best mushroom soup ever. We spent the next day searching in Pogodki, Kosmin, Zblewo and Kiszewa, looking for the Deja – Zynda and allied families. (By the way, I took over 650 pictures on this trip. I think Zenon also took just as many as a precautionary back-up.) The gravestones gave little information, because it is the church policy in Poland that you must pay to rent the gravesite for 20 years and are responsible for maintaining it. When the time has expired, you must re-rent the space. If everyone moves or there is no relative who wishes to maintain the site, the stones are buried or thrown away and someone else is buried in that spot. Many old grave markers were made of wood and thus disintegrated over time.
Zenon has also downloaded historical summaries of all the Polish towns and has begun to translate then into English for me and I will include them in the family history. (In case I didn’t mention, you do not want to drive in Poland!)
We drove across Poland to Dabrowka Dolna (the ancestral home of my Grandfather John) to meet the Welnas.
When we entered the yard, there was sweet Maria waiting at the gate! It seems that most property in Poland is gated.
While there might have been some apprehension on both sides, as soon as Maria hugged me, I knew I was home. We grabbed each other, kissed and hugged each other again and walked into her house. We sat at the table holding hands and just talked about our families and showed pictures of them. Zenon was translating all the time. She married into the Welna family, and her husband Ryszard, my contemporary, died of a heart attack about five years ago at the age of 51. She insisted that we stay with her. She cooked for us for three days on a wood stove in her summer kitchen. I guess that’s what happens to you in Poland when you are “family”. I teased her about opening a restaurant.
Her son, Waldemar, and his beautiful wife, Ania, and their two cute children joined us the next day as we checked local history and graveyards. We visited the local pastor who allowed us to look at the birth, death, and marriage records. This verified that there are missing books so it looks like the research on the Welna family has reached the end. The same is true about the Pyka family who lived nearby in Dammratsch (now Domaradz) and also attended the same church.
On Sunday, Zenon and I attended the Polish mass in the church of my grandfather. There was one in German earlier in the morning. Hearing Polish hymns sung loudly and clearly (almost as good as Protestants!) was a joy.
It had been unusually cold and rainy for September so I asked the priest if he would pray to God and ask for warmer weather. He responded that he did not have that kind of relationship with God. (Polish humor!) But he did sell me a history of the church, St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, written in German, which will need to be translated.
Later, I got to meet Maria’s daughter Gabbi and her boyfriend. She is finishing her senior year at college. When I first discovered the Welnas, she was in the second grade about to make her First Communion.
I was taken to see August Welna’s house, which Maria’s daughter Dorota and her husband are restoring. (August was my grandpa’s John’s brother.)