2014, April 23-24
Up until about 4 years ago I knew very little about the Polish side of my family, my mother’s parents and their ancestors. My Mom is the youngest of her siblings by 11 years, and her mother died at a young age so she didn’t learn much about her family while growing up. Even the older relatives didn’t know many details when I began asking – so much of our family history had been lost over the past 100 years.
I did know the names of my mother’s 4 grandparents, each of whom immigrated separately from Poland at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Already familiar with genealogy from the research I’d done on my father’s side, I began digging to determine which villages my great-grandparents had immigrated from. Passenger records provided 3 of the village names, but it took more trial and error to identify where these villages were located because there are multiple villages with the same name in Poland. I was not able to locate the passenger record for my great grandfather Jan Twaróg, but some creative research allowed me to eventually break through this brick wall using U.S.church records and I finally knew where all 4 great grandparents were from.
During the course of my research I had found the PolishOrigins forums and I began reading the blogs of the tours others had taken. Excited by the stories of others, I knew I wanted to visit the villages of my ancestors and the perfect occasion was approaching. I discussed the idea with my brother Mark, and we decided to surprise my mother on her 70th birthday with a gift of a trip to Poland with both of her sons. I will never forget the day we told her: she burst into tears of shock and joy, it was a very emotional moment! None of us had ever been to Poland, so this would be the trip of a lifetime. Working with Zenon and the PolishOrigins team, we planned the details of our tour and waited anxiously for the big day to arrive. It was a long wait: I first contacted Zenon almost 2 years before our tour!
Finally the day was here and the 3 of us met at the San Francisco airport. Our flight to Kraków (via Frankfurt) was long but uneventful.
We arrived at our hotel almost 24 hours after leaving home, tired but excited to be in Poland. We enjoyed our first meal (pierogis of course!) and went to sleep, ready to meet Zenon in the morning and begin our tour.