15. Shellie’s Tour to Ancestral Places. Day 5.

On day 5 we On our next day, we took a drive west to Zywiec where Żywiec beer is made. There were several ways to get there, so we choose to drive a road that went over the Slovakia border (formerly Czechoslovakia) and then back into Poland. We didn’t know what to expect at the border and had our passports ready but there was no special checkpoint at the border. In fact, we didn’t even realize that we crossed into Slovakia until we were already across the border. Once we were in town, however, we could tell that we were no longer in Poland. Zenon said that all of the signs and the radio were now in Slovakian. I didn’t know enough Polish to notice a difference. The biggest difference that I noticed was the change in architecture from our Polish mountain towns. We saw few of the charming alpine style houses that are so common in Odrowaz and other villages in the Podhale region and more plain concrete structures. Slovakia is part of the European Union and now uses the euro for currency. Zenon explained that people would travel across the border to shop in Slovakia, but now it is reversed. The euro is stronger than the Polish zloty, so now people cross into Poland to shop! By the way, the exchange rate is roughly 3 zloty for each American dollar, so we are finding that prices are quite affordable here – though I have done almost no shopping yet!

On the outskirts of town we encountered a haywagon; a typical site in the country towns of this area.

A hay wagon
A hay wagon

Żywiec was a charming town. Zenon explained that it was a typical Galician town. Many aspects of Galician towns, especially the architecture of the buildings around the town square, show a strong Austrian influence from when this part of Poland belonged to Austria. We toured a beautiful estate, but did not have time to visit the Żywiec Brewery.

Afterward we headed back along another route toward our village and stopped again in Piekielnik. I found many Kadlub names on ship manifests from this village, which is 2 villages west of Odrowaz. It was once part of Czechoslovakia, but now is part of Poland. I had no idea that Odrowaz was once so close to the border! Over the past year, I have made contact with several wonderful Kadlub decendents in the US, who have traced their ancestors to this village. We could not find a direct relationship between our families, but since our villages were so close, it was possible that we were somehow related. I wandered through the cemetery in search of Kadlub headstones, but found very few clues. In the US, we spend lots of time walking through old cemeteries in search of our ancestors. This is a very important part of our ancestral research and many of us really enjoy visiting cemeteries and photographing the headstones to preserve our heritage. Americans in search of ancestors here should understand that unless their ancestors were wealthy, they should not expect to find their ancestor’s graves. Zenon explained that gravesites were essentially rented for 20 years and if the family was not around, or could not pay to rent the site for another 20 years, the headstone was removed and the graveside was reused.

We arrived back to our guesthouse that evening and spent some time examining clues that we received about my family. That my great-grandfather Stanislaw had siblings was the most important piece of information that I had. Now we had to find out where they all went to! They must have left this village because I am having much trouble finding anyone who knows anything about them.


One comment

  1. Dear Lee & Shellie,

    Thank you for the information about this blog. I thorouly enjoyed viewing all the pictures and comments. I have never been to Poland and throught your blog it was nice to get at least this close. I found the historical points to be very interesting. I look forward to hearing about your next trip back. Thank you again for sharing this site with me.

    (in care of my daughters email address: boseme1080 AT aol.com)

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