Today was much more low-key than the excitement that was an explosion of new knowledge regarding the Michnal side of my family from yesterday. While we compile the info (read: while Zen compiles the information) that we learned yesterday, we decided to do a little sight-seeing.
Podkarpackie, the region in which Zarzecze exists, is probably the most rural area of Poland. It is known for only a few things other than its natural beauty. First, the area was the center of the Polish petroleum industry as it is (or was) rich in oil and natural gas. Second, it is the area where Eastern Culture and the Eastern Orthodoxy meet Western Culture and Catholicism. Third, its border with Slovakia along the length of the Carpathian Mountains has its lowest pass in this entire mountain range meaning it has a long history as a trade route between Hungary and Poland (the good part) and a long history of raiders and major battles over this strategic position (the bad part).
Our first planned stop is at an ethnographic open air museum of this region at Sanok. For those of you from the Detroit area, think Greenfield Village except for 18th and 19th centuries and in South East of Poland. It is the largest museum of its kind in all of Europe and it is pretty impressive to see in person.
We make plans to go to Sanok but we are unable to secure an English speaking guide until late morning so we decided to stop off in Dukla on our way which is the town near the strategic pass through the Carpathian Mountains. Here there is an interesting museum in an old Manor House of an important Polish family called the Mniszech family. Although we can’t take pictures inside, there are some interesting military items outside including this Russian T-34 Tank left behind from the Battle of the Dukla pass in 1944 between the Germans and Russians (photo above). This tank was the most produced tank in the entire war and second most of all time. It looks to me like the Polish have painted over the Russian insignia…one thing I’ve learned here…while the scars of WWII and everything the Germans did to Poland are not far from people’s minds, the Polish seem to dislike the Russians much more while they generally get along well with Germany today.
Another cool item is the Polish Air Force plane from after WWII….cool insignia.
After a short run through the museum we take off for Sanok and meet with my guide Weronika who will show me around the museum while Zen loads the info we found yesterday into my Ancestry.com tree. The museum is much larger and less compact/densely filled than Greenfield village but it has a similar feel to it. I didn’t take that many pictures here but there were a couple of highlights I thought to record. One great feature of the park is the lovely wooden churches and the 19th Century peasant houses they moved here. A few pictures of each below.
After a full day of walking around this huge park we leave to grab a late lunch/dinner at a place Zen likes. On the way I’m struck by how the majority of songs played on the radio are in English despite the fact that a relatively small proportion of native Poles speak English. Dinner is good and I have another bowl of Zurek….my favorite Polish food. You might remember it as White Barscz and it is made from fermented rye bread creating a sour and creamy broth which is poured over slices of kielbasa and hard-boiled egg. It is often served during Easter holidays – Yum!
On the way home we visit a cemetery from WWII which will be one of the many moving and disturbing sites on this trip. The cemetery is in a forest east of Jaslo called Warzyce. Here, members of the Jaslo Gestapo murdered thousands of Polish Catholics, Jews, handicapped, members of the resistance, Russian prisoners of war….really anyone that was undesirable. From 1940 to 1944, the Gestapo murdered approximately 5,000 people here and dumped them into 32 mass graves. Of the thousands of remains, a war crimes commission was only able to identify 316 of the bodies as the Germans did everything possible to destroy evidence of their crimes while they pulled back from the Russian advances in 1944.
It is here that my kinsman, Adolf Michnal of Zarzecze, one of the few that were identified, was murdered on April 17, 1944 along with 38 others for (translation from Google): “murdered during the execution residents of neighboring villages, farmers and workers, suspected of activity in the resistance movement and helping Jews.”
I didn’t have time to calculate the relationship between him and I but it is on the agenda for next year.
It is easy to understand why the Gestapo used this place. It was off a side road and very dark even though the sun was shining brightly outside the forest.
After this we went back to the hotel after a quick check on the schedule for the Jaslo Wine Festival which was scheduled for tomorrow.
Since Zen is not much of a night owl and Nowy Zmigrod is such a sleepy town, I ended the day with a sampling of Poland’s famous Zubrowka Vodka and apple juice. I needed a good drink after that cemetery visit.
The vodka is banned in the US because each bottle has a blade of “bison grass” which the FDA has deemed toxic. Tastes pretty good to me and I somehow survived this dangerous liquor.