His initial attitude was openly negative.

(This post is a copy of emails sent to us by one of our guests, Bonnie, after her and her husband’s tour with PolishOrigins. All parts of the text and photos below are published with the author’s permission).
Open Air Museum in Rumszyszki, Lithuania
Prior to our spectacular PolishOrigins (PO) genealogy trip in May, I ordered Slomka’s book and read it. You see, Dzikow, the village he writes about, was my maternal babcia’s village in the former Galicia (now Podkarpackie). I recommend that everyone, especially those with roots in Podkarpackie read it. I plan to also check out “The Peasants.”
 
I knew my babcia, Katarzyna Mudlo Duda, very well growing up, and as a natural born history “geek”  I always asked questions about her youth, which was a tough existence by any measure. The book mentions unrelated girls working in a household, many of them orphans. Katarzyna was one of them, so  I got a mental snapshot of the conditions under which she lived as a young girl from the book.i also knew her parents were both gone by the time she was six, and her sister Maria, four. They were settled with an aunt and uncle, but when the uncle (the blood relative) died, her aunt abused her and her sister, and did not allow them to attend school. Katarzyna must have been eight or nine (SO young!) when she went to the priest and pleaded her and her sister’s case on what was going on. Her presence of mind to do this really impressed me. He placed them with a farm family, who were reasonably good to them, fed them, and gave them their daughters’ castoffs to wear, as well as a basic book with which she taught herself how to read, on at least a rudimentary level. 
 
As I got older and raised a family of my own, I have thought about her courage to go to the priest and appeal to him to fix her and her sister’s situation, as well as her initiative in learning how to read. When other babcias in our neighborhood would brag about how many grandchildren they had, mine would recite the numbers and types of university bachelor degrees, masters degrees, and nursing school diplomas! Education was that important to her, because it had been denied in her childhood. 
 
The combined work and talents of Alexander, Zbigniew, and PO overall for my trip added to my understanding of what a special person she really was. I’d had a hint about her ethnicity from her Ellis Island manifest when she stated her ethnicity was “Ruthenian,” and then learned that her maiden name, Mudlo, was Ukrainian. I’d also read about the expulsions of ethnic Ukrainians to the Ukrainian SSR of the USSR in the late 1940s. But the trauma she’d had as a child really resonated with me when Zbigniew took us to the archives in Premysl where we studied the Greek Catholic records. I personally found her father’s (my great grandfather’s) death record, and learned he’d succumbed to tuberculosis at age 36! We also learned through Zbigniew that another sister, an infant (I’d never heard of her growing up) died the same year as her dad; her mother also died the following year at a very young age. It just really hit me that she’d faced incredible amounts of trauma in the very early years of her life. When we traveled on to Sanok later, and I saw the lack of ventilation in peasant houses, and I realized it was no wonder that so many died young from tuberculosis, asthma and other lung diseases as we’d seen as causes of death in the archives. I will forever honor her for her courage going forward. I am preparing a report for my Duda/Mudlo cousins on my trip, and introducing it with her story, in addition to the fourth cousins once removed that we met, and photos of the churches.
 
Alexander and Zbigniew were so patient, and no question was stupid. Alexander had the patience of Job with all the delays (husband’s surgeries, a hurricane nearly destroying our vacation place) in finally getting this trip going once and for all. But it was worth it! Zbigniew is a whiz in his work, not only technically, but his instincts as well. He’s brilliant! We were both very impressed with his dogged determination to uncover every stone in learning the truths about my maternal line. In Lithuania and NE Poland, Daniel was also excellent. My paternal line’s locations have some missing records, etc. and my dad’s mother’s family has scattered widely in Lithuania, so we did not have enough time to recover everything, but it was great seeing the churches where generations of my dad’s family worshipped, and looking for family names in the cemeteries. My husband had some leg pain, and Daniel was very patient whenever he needed a break during the trip. The whole experience was a trip of a lifetime, and I am already in steady touch through Facebook with a couple of the relatives I met in Podkarpackie. Google Translate is a huge help! I can’t’ wait to return to Poland in 2025 to see Gdansk, linger more in Krakow, Zakopane, and Sanok; and visit my relatives.
 
Thanks again for all your help for me in learning and understanding more about my family. It makes me even more proud to be of Polish descent! Have a great autumn!

 

(A short update a few months later when we were exchanging emails with Bonnie):

 

One more thing happened on this trip. My husband only went because of his loving support  for me. He thought it would be boring, etc. and his initial attitude was openly negative. He was so happily surprised by the welcoming attitude of the Poles we met (and loved the food!) everywhere, and in the expertise shown by Daniel and Zbigniew when we traveled with them. When we were back in Krakow on our own, a day trip I’d arranged myself got messed up by the operator, and he said, “If Polish Origins had set this up, this would not have happened!” I just smiled at the change in his attitude!

 

You see, my husband built his own successful consulting business nearly 20 years ago after losing his job, so to impress him was really a major feat. Finally, after we’d been home only a few days, I overheard him chatting with a business acquaintance headed to Poland for work. My husband sounded like an advertisement for Poland, telling his friend where to go in Warsaw, and to be sure and take the train to Krakow (“… a charming city,” he said) if he had free time on the weekend. What a transformation, and your company was a huge part of it.

 

Bonnie

(See also Bonnie’s testimonial: https://polishorigins.com/blog/testimonial/bonnie/ )

4 comments

  1. What a beautiful testament to polishorigins and a heart wrenching story of your grandma. What a privilege to know so much about her! And to have such a brave and intelligent grandma. My paternal family is from the Sanok area, which I visited in 2018 with my daughter. A lovely place but I know there were difficulties or why would they have left.

    1. Thank you! That part of the whole experience touched my heart so deeply. We always called my grandma “Busia,” rather than “Babcia” when I was a child, common in some Polish American communities. My older girl’s middle name is Katharine, after Busia (who was Katarzyna). She grew up to be a stellar student and athlete with honors at university and law school. She is a very strong woman, a tough attorney but also a very loving mother. I often think Busia must be so proud of her! When this daughter was pregnant with my twin grandsons, she asked me if they could call me Busia.

      I could not have been more honored.

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