My Big Fat Polish Trip

Part 1. Polish Wedding.

Day 1

My son, Steve and I left our house at approximately 9:15 a.m. and arrived at the Charlotte N.C. airport at 9:50 a.m. We checked our baggage straight through to Warsaw. Our flight took us to JFK airport in New York City where we would change to a LOT plane.

The flight to New York was okay, 1 1/2 hrs. At JFK we were taken to the International Terminal by Airport Van Transportation Service.

Upon our arrival at the international terminal there was no one to help with carry-on baggage and the walk to the LOT ticket counter was hard. When we arrived at the ticket counter the line was already very long (winding around posts, similar to waiting in line to buy a ticket to a sports game).

Finally got our boarding passes and went to the proper gate (this time with help & wheel chairs) made it with about 1/2 hr. to boarding. Plane was delayed for takeoff due to the weather, rain & lightning; it was a 2 1/2-3 hour delay. Once in the air, there was so much turbulence we felt like we were on a roller coaster (up-down/side to side).

Day 2

Arrived 3 hrs. late in Warsaw. Michael Marciniak met us at the baggage claim area at 11:45 a.m.
Michal took us to the Holiday Inn Hotel, were Steve, my son, and I rested for the rest of the day.
Breakfast was not included in the price of the room.

Day 3

Michal drove us to Tarnow to meet with Zenon Znamirowski.  On the way there I got car sick even though I was sitting in the front seat. The curving roads felt like another roller coaster.

Arrived at the RANCHO PALOMINO (inn)  and met Zenon and then rested and unpacked (our stay was for 5-6 days).

The inn where we stayed

While we were unpacking STANISLAW came to the ranch and invited us to a POLISH WEDDING. He brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to welcome us to Poland. STANISLAW is my 5th cousin on my grandfather’s mother’s side. My grandfather’s name was JOZEF ZUGAJ and his mother was MARIANNA SOBON.

Went with Stanislaw to the Wedding Mass and then to the reception.

On the Wedding Mass

We witnessed a custom after the mass, which I found quite interesting and silly at the time:  When the bride and groom leave the church there are children and adults called gatekeepers. A rope is strewn across the road and in order to pass the couple must give a donation, either money or vodka (vodka is the main alcohol).  There were at least 15 gatekeepers and at one point the volunteer fire department put their truck in the way. Needless to say the lead car gave them three bottles of vodka.

Stanislaw is not the person I pictured. I expected a quiet, reserved individual.   On the contrary he was full of fun and information and very easy to get along with.  He helped Steve up & down the stairs at the wedding reception, on the cobblestone walks (and there are a lot of them). The trip was an enjoyable one with an exception, which was the smell at the Rancho Palomino.  If you live on a ranch or in the country and are used to the smell of hay and horses, then I guess it is okay. The beds were very hard and uncomfortable.

Now, the wedding reception was a blast. The food, what can I say? It was FANTASTIC, DELICIOUS and very filling.  The meal started off with the traditional soup made with angel hair noodles, chicken broth, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips. The entrée’ consisted of boiled potatoes with parsley, fried veal cutlet, beef of some sort, (what they call a sausage Americans call a hot dog), three small bowls with sides of cole slaw, puréed pickled beets and cucumbers with sour cream. Dessert was Wedding Cake. After that came hot beef and sausage soup (regular sausage), platters of ham, beef, chicken, rye bread, butter, and a plate of fried chicken. Bottles of drinks, Pepsi, orange, apple juice and beer were on the tables. Pitchers of apple juice and orange juice, beer and the vodka came later.

The wedding planner was a very vocal person, joyful, fun. There was a part of the reception when the bride and groom and wedding planner went from table to table and sang a little ditty about particular persons. And then they came to us.

It seems the bride (rather groom) is a 5th cousin to us on the Sobon side of the family. The wedding couple was informed by Stanislaw of our relationship to them and why we were in Poland so ‘our’ song reflected that.

In Poland the wedding rings are worn on the ring finger of the right hand. Very simple, very plain gold bands, unless you are one of the elite and can afford fancy rings.

More Polish wedding



  1. I would have liked a translation of the song the Wedding Planner sang to the Americans. Also I was surprised that none of the dances were to Polkas. My family brought the “Bridal Dance” wedding tradition to America. Perhaps the Gatekeepers tradition was the basis of it. The guest paid to dance with the bride. The Bubbkah sat with a huge soup pot covered with an apron and the guests put the money in it. After you danced with the bride, the women got a piece of Wedding Cake and the men got a shot of whiskey. Then when the mother of the bride came, she removed the bride’s veil and gave her to her husband. At my wedding, my mom was talking in the kitchen to the ladies and my husband tried to pick me up and carry me out. All my relatives circled me and shook their fist at Ed shouting in Polish, “You can’t have her, she’s still ours!” He had no idea what they were saying. I kept asking where my mom was. Ed was half way out of his jacket when he swooped me up and made a break for it. Needless to say, my mom never took off my veil!

  2. I remember my wedding,it lasted for 3 days and come to think ofit so did my 75th birthday, Any way , 2 of my Aunts took my shoes and ran around collecting money from the guests to dance with the bride and then someone started pinning money to my veil, we did a lot of polka dancing and had a great time, My mother did not unpin my veil, my bridesmaid did, but momma was there to put the apron on me. It was fun and very enjoyable.

  3. Hi, Josephine,

    Reading the last of your blogs and seeing your photos about your trip to Poland – brought back wonderful memories of my own two visits.

    Torun and Copernicus home, Warsaw and Krakow, and the many different styles of churches are great memories – and seeing Czestochowa ranks as one of the best – but what I always remember is the kindness of the people we spoke to. Whether in the guest houses, or cemeteries, or wherever, they were always kind and helpful.
    Finding family and family home site was a major bonus.
    (And Zenon is an unbeatable guide = just the best possible,)
    I want to go back!


  4. Leonore,

    If only you have chance please come back! We are preparing for the next year a special historical tourism 10 – days PolishOrigins Galicia Tour. You, and our other guests, will be among the first who will receive more details about it.

    Have a great week!


  5. Good morning:

    I accidentally came across your story. My grandmother and grandfather were Anna and Bronislaw Gardula and my grandmother’s parents were Joseph Zugaj and Marianna Sobon. When I saw the names in your story, I couldn’t believe it. I was wondering if there was a possiblity that we were related.

    Just curious as can be,

    Jan (Maczko) Niebrzydowski

  6. Jan; I read your comment that I received from Zenon and YES I do believe that the possibility is there that we are related. The info that you sent was correct in many ways. I hope this message will make it through to you. I will also ask Zenon to give you my e-mail so that we can get better acquainted.
    Josephine (Skalski) Welsch

  7. Jan; There is a connection between our families, we also have Maczko in our family line as well. Please e-mail me so that we can exchange information. Thank you..
    best regards
    Josephine Welsch

  8. Jan; I have been going over my records and I am pretty sure that we are related. Please e-mail me at the address I will give to you. [email protected], Please it is very important. My great grand parents were Jozef Zugaj & Marianna Sobon. We do have a connection. Thank you
    Josephine Welsch (Skalski)

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