The next day we drove to Wesiory, the Polish Stonehenge. The stones mark a Goth burial ground from about the first to the third century. We touched the stones and Daniel read us some history on Wesiory. The sizes of the burial mounds vary from four to sixteen meters. The creation of the burial grounds is connected with the so-called Wielbark culture. It was interesting to see the Polish Stonehenge nestled right beside a lake.
After touring Wesiory, we drove to Torun, where I was going to meet my second cousin, who I have never met before. We stayed in Hotel 1231, in the heart of the old town. It is a restored 13th-century old mill, located in the picturesque ruins of the Teutonic Castle. It was a very historic hotel, with the ruins beside it and the water from the mill trickling down beside the entryway.
We met my cousin at a restaurant, where we enjoyed an afternoon of getting to know one another. He had brought pictures that I could look at and his son and his wife and little grandson joined us. It was a very entertaining visit, as my cousin did not seem to be at all serious. Daniel had to interpret, as my cousin could not speak English. I found out a bit of the history of my family, so that was great. After dispensing with some vodka, we agreed that we would keep in touch, which we do. That was a very exciting day for me, as I finally found a living relative. Prior to my arrival in Poland, Aleksander found my cousin and set up the meeting for me.
Heading south the next day, we drove to Bronislaw, to try and find the cemetery there. We did not have any luck, but we looked at the village. Bronislaw is where my Great Grandparents lived prior to immigrating to Volhynia.
We then toured Zdziechow, where my Great Grandmother was born. We toured the cemetery there, but also there were no familial names.
The last village of the day was Laznowska Wola. I was very excited to see this village and visit the evangelical cemetery there, as this is where my Great Grandfather on my Dad’s side was born and lived. Aleksander, from Polish Origins, found out the house number where he lived, and also the names of my Great Great Grandparents, so I was very excited to see this village. I took pictures of where we thought the house would have been, and toured the evangelical cemetery there. This cemetery was in good repair, so that was a bonus. I saw a few headstones with names that I knew, relatives through marriage, but none of my family names. I saw where the Lutheran Church once stood, and the Lutheran School, which my Great Grandfather donated money to. This village was small, but it had meaning to me, as I knew that through Aleksander’s research, my Great Grandfather was born in that village, and lived there before he immigrated to Volhynia. After numerous pictures, Daniel drove us to Warsaw, where his genealogy guidance ended.
We had a tour guide booked in Warsaw, and I saw many of the historical places where the ruins were, in WWII. The whole city was decimated, save for one church where the Nazis had their ammunition. To see the city rebuilt after WWII was just amazing.
We then boarded a train with first class tickets to take us to Krakow. Everything was set up for us beforehand, through Aleksander. It was a very relaxing trip and nice to just sit back and see the countryside speed by.
Upon arrival, we were met at the train station and taken to our hotel arranged by Aleksander. We had a tour guide in Krakow, and we visited Wawel Hill, with its castle and cathedral. We also saw a replica of a dragon that supposedly lived under Wawel Hill in the old days. We had a chance to shop for souvenirs at the Old Town in Main Market Square, where stalls are set up so you could buy an assortment of homemade gifts. Needless to say, my suitcase was overloaded. Krakow is a very beautiful city.
The last day of our trip was spent touring the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a mine that was opened in the XIII century. A driver met us at the hotel and took us to the mine. We had an English tour of the mine, which was absolutely fascinating. We had to go down the steps into the mine, but luckily there was an elevator to take us back to the top. (Good thing, or I would have been left behind). It was amazing to see how things were carved out of salt, and they even hold a Mass down there, in the cathedral built out of salt. This is a must see if people travel to Krakow.
The next day we were taken to the airport, and we had to say goodbye to Poland. It was sad for me to leave, but the memories that I have are priceless. The food, the Hazelnut Vodka, the friendly people, the scenery, the history, and architecture will be forever in my heart.
I was amazed at the scenery, Poland is a very beautiful country. It is very modern, with superb infrastructure. I feel very blessed to be able to see the country where my ancestors lived and died.
I would like to say a big thank you to Aleksander for arranging this marvelous trip for me and my daughter. The attention to detail and also the help in finding my family names back generations was amazing for me. Everything that I wanted to see was included in my trip, and the accommodations were first class.
I would also like to say a big thank you to Daniel, for sharing the laughter, the comradery, and his knowledge of Poland. And also the driving, which at times was a little tricky. Daniel was more of a cemetery buff than I was, come to find out. At the end of the trip, I let him and my daughter just go ahead, while I waited at the car. I am sure that Daniel now knows every cemetery around the Suwalki area, and beyond. I thoroughly enjoyed his friendship and without him, I would not have been able to see the Poland that I wanted to see.
To this day, I still keep in touch with Aleksander and Daniel. I call them my friends, and I know that either one would not hesitate to help me with my ongoing research into my family through translations, etc.
When I got back to Canada, Aleksander sent me pictures put to Polish music from my trip. It is my keepsake and my gift from the country of my ancestors.
There are many memories that both my daughter and I will forever cherish, and if anyone wants to visit the beautiful country of Poland, PolishOrigins went far and beyond my expectations on this trip. I would not hesitate to recommend their services.
Penny Burgess and Jenna Long