First genealogy tours this year are behind us, two are happening right now, and there are many more ahead of us.
I was a genealogy guide on our first tour this year in April and I would like to share a few impressions with you.
In 2020 we made only one tour before travel restrictions were imposed. In 2021 we had 8% tours compared to 2019. With some staff losses (one person leaving the core team, a few tourist guides finding jobs outside of tourism) we made it until 2022. It was possible thanks to the incredibly dedicated and open to change team. We used our genealogy and organizational skills from our many years of experience in providing genealogy tours and used them to provide genealogy research services, live genealogy consultations, and virtual tours.
After such a long, so unexpected break, it was exhilarating to hit the road again. It was not only about the fact that we can do the tours again as a company but also on the personal level, to experience again the adventure and the joy of discovering.
As those of you who participated in our Genealogy Tours know, we always have set itineraries, we arrange organizational details like places you want to visit and stay, we make genealogy research plans which need to be executed when we are in or near your ancestors’ places. But you also know that each tour is a unique adventure. You never know how each day will end. You don’t know what we will find in the sources, where the sources will guide us, who we will meet, and what reactions we will encounter. All these elements are only an addition to the fact that you will walk the land of your ancestors, with a chance to visit the family backyard, the cemetery where they were buried, and what is not so rare, with a possibility of finding living relatives.
Now about the April tour with Michael.
First, travel restrictions in Poland: there are none.
We had spent the whole week together with Michael in the countryside and in a few cities. The only time when we were reminded about covid was when Michael needed to take a test 24 hours before leaving Poland. We visited quite a few state and church institutions, ate in restaurants, stayed in hotels, met with many people, and we were even in a local school. Nowhere, nobody ever mentioned the word “covid” or even “mask”.
As a reminder, all the covid restrictions for people traveling from outside of the European Union (Schengen zone) to Poland have been lifted by the Polish government on March 28, 2022. No proof of covid vaccination, no tests, no quarantine is required to enter Poland. (Source, the official Polish government site: https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/przyjazd-do-polski-spoza-strefy-schengen)
I also checked recent statistics concerning covid cases and deaths and now (May 11) the 7-days average tells that there are 500 new cases and 12 deaths a day. Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=covid+poland
Second, war in Ukraine and the refugees. In Poland there are currently about 2.5 million Ukrainians who fled from war in their country. Poland has currently about 38 million inhabitants. This means that within two months the number of people who live in Poland increased by about 6.5%. They are in big cities (only in Warsaw is about 267 thousand refugees, which is 13% of Warsaw’s population, and in Rzeszów near the Ukrainian border 35% of all residents are Ukrainians) and in little towns and villages, especially near the Ukrainian border. They found their places in Polish families’ homes, others have temporary accommodation in hotels or are renting apartments if they have money or a job. There are charities, businesses, and millions of regular people who are engaged in help. There is also formal and financial help from the Polish state and local authorities both for the refugees and for people helping them.
Michael a few times asked me: “Where are all those refugees I heard about?”. I replied: “They are everywhere, here is a family, there is a mother with children, here is a car on Ukrainian plates. But if I haven’t heard them talking I also wouldn’t tell that they are from Ukraine.” The refugees blended in everyday life of Polish cities and villages. They not only receive help here but they also try to be useful if they can, and most of the Ukrainian children went to Polish schools.
I can’t share the details of our tour with Michael because of the private character of each tour. However, I can tell you that in most cases we had good luck with people willing to help us. One of the examples was one of the rector priests who dedicated his time to us and even took us to the school to meet the headmaster and people (including pupils) who could know Michael’s relatives.
From our experience, such people, such meetings are not an exception but a rule. Our research, and especially its part of looking for living cousins is so much more effective thanks to people like priests, mayors of villages, enthusiasts of local history, or just regular people we meet for example in a local village shop.
The final, tangible result of our time with Michael was finding original records of many more ancestors he knew about and others he wasn’t aware of. Equally rewarding and probably even more emotional were moments of finding and meeting with cousins on both lines (different regions). I think the most incredible moments are those with family old pictures being shared and stories being told that are remembered by both sides. Thanks to Michael’s visit and our search, the family reunion on his paternal side took place for the first time since the 1940s…
I cannot tell you more details but I can share with you a few photos and videos from the tour: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RR4AW3kYAqgWjKct6 .
More about our Genealogy Tours: https://polishorigins.com/genealogy-tours/
Best Regards from spring Poland,
CEO and Founder