This is continuation of the first visit of Abraham in Poland in 2014. You can read it here: http://blog.polishorigins.com/looking-for-great-grandpa-ludwik/.
In 2015 Abraham returned and took his mother to show her newly-found family in Poland and to discover more family in Lithuania. Our team was again privileged to organize the tour.
The blog is adapted with permission from Abraham’s FB entries when he was relating ‘hot off the press’ the adventures they were experiencing :-).
Mom meets her family in Poland. Sharing family stories and laughs with some homemade cakes in the Polish countryside.
Vilnius (Wilno), Lithuania
While our genealogist toiled away at the Lithuanian National Archives trying to gather details about the Jurkiewicz family at the time my great grandfather Michał Jurkiewicz lived here, Mom and I toured the city. We walked the streets he would have walked when he visited the city to trade. We visited the church he would have come to for Easter. And we had some modern, Lithuanian fun.
The modern city looks much as it did when my great grandfather lived in a nearby village. This is the city he identified as his origin on American documents.
Kernave (Kiernów), Lithuania
Jurkiewicz Family legend has it that at the end of the 14th century, when Poland and Lithuania formed the most expansive kingdom in Europe, Prince Witold granted the Jurkiewicz family 20 hectares of land to resettle from southern Poland to Lithuania.
The family were peasant farmers but they prospered on the land for hundreds of years in Pakalniszki and other villages in Kiernów parish. By 1895, there were 43 Jurkiewicz family members in four of the seven houses that sat huddled together in a shady area by their farming field. My mother’s grandfather, Michał Jurkiewicz, helped his family farm in the area until he left for America at age 17. Two of his brothers also immigrated, and the remaining family of nine moved to another village, but his Jurkiewicz cousins remained in Pakalniszki, survived the war, avoided repatriation to Poland by the Soviets and became Lithuanian citizens. We know this because my mother and I met the Jurkiewicz family now living in Pakalniszki.
We breathed the fresh air some 30 km from Vilnius, looked out at the land of our ancestors as the sun set and enjoyed an afternoon talking about the family and hearing a 150-year-old dialect of Polish no longer spoken today.
Henryk takes us next door to the summer home of his son, Jonas, who proudly flies a Lithuanian flag. The family name, per Lithuanian law, is now spelled Jurkevičius.
We hear stories about the family, learn where they now live and Jonas asks about the Jurkiewicz family in America, enthusiastically offering to host a Jurkiewicz family reunion.
Further online research by our diligent genealogist Zbyszek reveal that Jonas and my Mom are fourth cousins. Church records show our descendants were next door neighbors in Pakalniszki 166 years ago.
Abraham Mahshie is a Madrid-based writer. His work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Outside online, and Ozy.com. Abraham continues to explore his maternal family roots in Eastern Poland and Lithuania, the Kresy migration, and he is planning an exploratory trip to interview living World War II era migrants who lived in Poland’s former Eastern borderlands. Abraham can be reached at [email protected] .