My family’s first immigrant ancestors arrived in America in the mid-1860s from a village in the northwest part of Poland in the Tuchola Forest. Another branch arrived in 1881 from the Poznan district. Finally in 1906-1907 my husband’s ancestors left from villages in Galicia and in the Kujawy area of north central Poland. Oral family history told that any relatives that remained in Poland relocated after World War II.
Our son-in-law suggested that my husband and I make this trip in 2012. He was to attend a business conference in Warsaw for a few days in October and invited us to join him there. He dedicated vacation time to stay longer and explore family villages together on a drive tour. It would be a whirlwind trip with overnight stays in different cities each night over eleven days. After day nine, our daughter and grandchildren would interrupt school schedules and meet us in Krakow. We would drive one day through part of northern Slovakia to see even more ancestral villages; then return to southern Galicia the same night. Finally, we would enjoy one more visit to Krakow before leaving Poland.
At first I balked; there were so many obstacles. We didn’t speak the language! Our families’ villages were so spread out that covering wide distances would be impossible on a regular tour with limited vacation time. I needed a knee replacement and cobblestone streets were difficult to navigate. An October trip meant changes in weather; perhaps rain and snow. I didn’t think this kind of trip was possible with limited travel time. I was wrong. PolishOrigins Tours and Zenon Znamirowski assured me that it could be done. I met Zenon earlier this year online, when he did research for our family’s Galician history. His detailed responses to my concerns and suggestion for ways to make travel easier made this trip possible. We planned an itinerary and Zenon’s fine tuned the drive times, added suggestions and arranged needed reservations.
Our son-in-law’s name is Arif. His background is Iranian. Above all, we hoped he would feel comfortable exploring the country with us, especially on such a long road trip. No worry – Arif was relaxed on the drive, and enjoyed the customs, manners, food and culture. He learned Polish expressions that were practiced each time we stopped, when speaking to a villager, a waiter or priest. By trip’s end we made him an honorary Pole. Later he would say that visiting Poland was one of the best trips he has made. That approval comes from a man who has traveled worldwide, to many countries on many continents! We agreed with him, it was a most special trip.
Two guides shared this very personal adventure with us: Zenon Znamirowski and his associate, Slav. Slav met us on our arrival in Warsaw and spent the first three days as our guide in the city. Then Zenon met us on day four and we drove on a seven day trip that ended in Krakow. Slav joined us again to relieve Zenon in Krakow. (Zenon was committed to another tour and left us in Slav’s capable hands.) We knew Slav could handle mountain driving. We just didn’t know if he could handle days on the road with three young children? There were eight of us on that leg of the trip including Slav, three children who were 7-13 years old, their parents and we, the grandparents. It was a special experience meeting and traveling with Zenon and Slav. Join us now as we recap our 11 day family travel adventure