Having been treated to a quiet and cool evening’s sleep we woke up raring to go. We headed down to meet Lucjan for breakfast and to check out the breakfast buffet that was included with our stay. I walked into the dining area and absolutely couldn’t believe my eyes, there was the biggest buffet of any type that I had ever seen.
There was fresh fruit and vegetables, an omelet station, beautiful little pastries, pâtés, salads, cold
cuts, something that translated to “pork jelly”; this looked like an invitation for serious eating. Although I can be an adventurous eater I just didn’t think that pork jelly was something I wanted to start my day
with, so I took the safe route; tomato, chive and cheese omelet, two small slices of watermelon, orange
juice and Earl Grey Tea. Walter had crepe with blueberries, orange juice and coffee. I am pretty
sure that Lucjan went the Polish route though I don’t remember seeing pork jelly on his plate. It was a
beautiful morning, so we went out and sat on the patio to eat.
During dinner the night before we had decided that although there was the possibility of finding many more of Walter’s relatives that we really thought that we would enjoy visiting the Museum of Folk Architecture in Sanok (Skansen w Sanoku). Lucjan had made arrangements with Maria Grabowska, an English-speaking guide, to take us around and tell us about the different buildings.
I can’t believe our good fortune to have had Maria as a guide. She knew everything about the people, the buildings, the ways of living; we spent over four hours with her and if it hadn’t been that we were getting tired we could have spent the day. Poland is very lucky to have such a place where there are over 100 historic structures to be viewed and toured and it seemingly with every effort taken to make everything as authentic as possible.
One of the highlights of the tour was to see two young women playing the Polish Lira Korbowa, or what we call a Hurdy-Gurdy. From what we were told the instruments are all handmade by individuals who must train for years. Each different wood that they are made from produces a different sound. The craftsmanship was remarkable. I don’t believe I had ever seen or heard one played and it was very enjoyable.
Maria had the key for all the buildings that were locked which meant that our little private tour gave us access to places that not everyone would be able to see. A few times the locks were either a little hard to open, or close or even both. On one of the buildings it took Maria, Lucjan and Walter to get the door locked.
The Skansen had a relatively new building which was full of religious relics. The collection includes Orthodox and Greek Catholic Church art from the 12th to the 20th centuries. The pieces contained in the exhibits are exquisite and so close that you could touch them. I was amazed by how many pieces
there were and how accessible they were to the public. I felt that in other parts of Europe they would have been locked away only to be viewed on just the most special of occasions.
After the tour we decided to grab a quick bite to eat. There was a festival going on and the grounds were full of performers and vendors. I was overwhelmed by all the choices and made the one bad food decision of the whole trip for me, Gołka. I asked Lucjan what a certain item was, and I thought that he had said that it was pressed cheese. It looked so pretty and so I decided that it would be my lunch. What it actually was a smoked cheese made of salted cow’s milk. There are very few foods that I don’t care for but high on that list are smoked and highly salty food. I am sure that it would be delicious to the right person but after offering it to both Walter and Lucjan my Gołka ended up in the trash can.
In our morning meeting we had decided that after our tour we would look for other relatives of Walter’s in Malinówka, the Gierlachs. To start our search we stopped at the local cemetery to see if we could find family graves and to see if there might someone in the cemetery to talk to that would know the family. As we wandered around the cemetery we came upon a mother and daughter, the Kmioteks. Lucjan explained why we were there and asked them if they knew any Gierlachs. With the most amazing luck we found out that they did and that they were distantly related to them. They told us that they would go home, call them, and that we should expect someone to be there to help us in 20 minutes.
It was a warm day and there was not a single speck of shade. We waited for about 15 minutes and then discussed what we should do next. We decided that since we had waited that long we should give them at least the full 20 minutes. When you are hot every minute drags, so I entertained myself with the old-style water pump. I pumped just a few times and out flowed some cool water which I ran over my hands. It was a little refreshing and fun to do something which brought back memories of being a kid. At exactly 20 minutes a car pulled up and a couple got out and started walking toward us. I was hopeful that this might be a connection, but as other people had been coming and going from the cemetery I was doubtful. They walked straight toward us and we decided that it was a good sign and started walking towards them. We got close enough to see that their faces had big smiles on and it was obvious that they were there to talk to us.
They introduced themselves as Edward Gierlach, a 2nd cousin, and his wife.
We walked around the cemetery with them some and they showed us graves of relatives and then they told us that a cousin of Edwards’s, Maria Gierlach Prajsnar, also a 2nd cousin, had a copy of Jan Stapiński’s diary, “Pamiętnik” which had been published, in Polish, in 1959. He volunteered to take us to Maria’s house, in Jabłonica Polska to see the diary and to meet her and her family. We got back into the car and headed off to Maria’s house.
We pulled into a gigantic driveway, large enough to park 10 cars. On the property was a large and very well kept wooden barn, a very nice home, and a pretty yard looking out across farm fields. There was a combination flower bed, vegetable garden and everything was as pretty as it could be. Immediately a woman came running out from her home followed by her husband and son. All the introductions began and then the hugs and handshakes were flying. I was lucky enough to receive my second kiss on the hand by Maria’s husband, I thought to myself that I really kind of enjoyed it! They invited us into their home and immediately offered us tea and cookies, which were followed up with pieces of homemade cake, Walter was in heaven.
Maria brought out the diary for us to see. Lucjan took a quick look at the table of contents and the index and asked Maria if it would be all right to take pictures of some of the pages. She immediately agreed, and he began snapping away. Maria’s son Mariusz was there with us and since he spoke a little bit of English we were able to talk about email addresses and would they like to share them. Marisuz seemed very interested in that, as was Edward, so we exchanged them, and I made sure that we could all read each other’s writing. Maria kept apologizing that if she had only known we were coming she would have made dinner for us and we kept thanking her for such a nice thought and that we really hadn’t known where we would be or who would meet. Lucjan told them that we still needed to go to Tadeusz Stapinski’s and return the book that he had lent me so after a visit of about an hour we had to get going. We all hugged and kissed, and they thanked us over and over for taking the time and coming all that way to look for them. After pictures and more hugging…and kissing…we left and headed off to Tadeusz’s house.
It took us about five minutes to get to Tadeusz’s and during that time we discussed what we would want to do while we were there. Did we want to visit or, should we return the book, say our thanks, and be on our way? It was dinner time and after my not so delicious lunch of Gołka and the very small lunches that Lucjan and Walter had had we decided that we should say our thanks and then go find dinner. As we pulled up the driveway to the house Tadeusz and his family came out. We all greeted each other with hugs and handshakes, it is amazing how loving and welcoming everyone was. I returned the book to Tadeusz and thanked him over and over for sharing it with me. I told him that I had quickly read bits of it while I was photographing it and how I had learned so much about the family and what it was like growing up in Poland in the 1930s and 1940s. The puppy that seemed so disturbed by my shoes the day before still wouldn’t get close to me, but she didn’t bark continuously at me, maybe I looked a little familiar. They invited us into their home, but we explained that it had been a long day and that we needed to get going. We said good-bye and headed out the driveway with everyone waving and waving. As we left I worried that we were being disrespectful or unappreciative to them, I only hope that that feeling was in my heart and not in theirs.
After a little discussion we decided that we would try the local pizza shop, Pizzeria Oaza, in Jabłonica Polska for our dinner that night. We walked into the restaurant and discovered that 2nd cousin one time removed, Mariusz was there having a beer! His face completely lit up when we walked in and he immediately insisted on buying us draft of a local beer, Tyskie.
We all sat down at the booth and he recommended his favorite pizza, the Dworska, for us to try. We ordered it and for me, the veggie pizza lover, one that was all vegetables the Pieczarkowa. Before our pizza arrived four small creamer size pitchers were placed on the table, two that had ranch dressing and two that had what had been referred to as ketchup, but that we would call barbecue sauce. Then our pizza came, it was a very thin crust, not my style but not bad. The Dworska had on it cheese, chicken, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and ground herbs. There might have been a small amount of olive oil but other than that there was no real sauce. The Pieczarkowa had cheese mushrooms, peppers, corn, olives and ground herbs. Again, there was no sauce to speak of. We determined that idea was to pour either the ranch dressing or the ketchup/barbecue sauce over the top of the pizza. I will say that it was different, not bad. It did make me wonder how I could get Walter to eat dried cranberries again. During dinner we talked about what Mariusz did for a living. He told us that he drives a delivery truck and makes deliveries in southeastern Poland and Slovakia. He also showed us pictures of his cute girlfriend. Also a topic of conversation was different types of beers. We told him that the next night we would be staying near Veľký Šariš, Slovakia and he told us that they made his favorite beer, Šariš 12% Premium there. I made a mental note to make sure to try that beer the next night.
After our pizza and another beer, we said good-bye, again, to Mariusz and headed for our last stops
of the day, the Visitation of Holy Mary, the Roman Catholic church and the cemetery in Kombornia. We were disappointed to find out that the church the Stapińskis had attended there had burnt down in 1932 and replaced in 1934. We believe that only the painting of the Virgin Mary had been saved and is still in use in the current church.
The sun was just getting ready to set when we left the church and headed back to our hotel in Kom-
bornia. We were fortunate to be able to get pictures of the looking out over the valley. With the lighting the small farming communities looking like something on a postcard.
Since it was a little earlier than the night before we decided that we would meet with Lucjan, after he
called his family, and plan our next day. We had hoped to sit on the patio, but it was occupied with smokers, so we went into the lobby, pulled out our itineraries and made our next plan of attack. After determining what we would be doing the next day we said our goodnights and headed up to our (air-conditioned) room to sleep.