Three years ago on a whim, I booked myself a ticket to Poland. I then booked a tour with PolishOrigins. I hoped and prayed that they were everything they claimed. My prayers were answered in the most spectacular way.
Before leaving for Poland, PO worked on finding living relatives based on information I had found. Within days they made contact with my 3rd cousin Krzystof. His grandmother and my Great Grandmother were cousins. They made arrangements to meet in the village of our grandparents during my visit.
I met Zen, my guide and the owner of PO when I arrived in Krakow. We drove the 2 hours out to my G. Grandmothers tiny village of Krzywa. It was as if it was frozen in time. I looked over the landscape, knowing it was the same one she looked at. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe after all the years of research I was actually standing in her village.
It was surreal. Then came meeting Krzystof, he was wonderful. He was the family genealogist. It had been passed down from his Grandmother. He had photos, documents, and stories. He informed me that this was a Lemko village. That we are descendants of this small ethnic group, who made their homeland along the Carpathian Mountains in Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.
With the help of Zen, we spent 2 days together, visiting the area, and learning about my ancestors. After, Zen and I did more genealogy research in a local town archive. With Zen’s help and knowledge, we traced this branch back to the late 1700’s.
Next was the village of my great grandfather, Obiecanowo. I wanted to duplicate the amazing experience I had had in Krzywa. Could I be so lucky? Upon arrival we started tracing this branch.
We spent 2 very long days searching. We went to archives, churches, libraries and cemeteries. We stopped at business’ and residents. Asking questions every where we went. By late afternoon on our last full day I had given up hope. Zen had not. As the sun was setting, we approached a home and stopped.
Zen knocked on the door, a woman answered. As soon as Zen started speaking I could tell we had discovered another branch. Her name was Danuta. Another 3rd cousin. Her Gr. Grandmother and my Gr. Grandfather were siblings. She quickly invited us in and we visited for a while. We made plans to visit the next day. When we did, Danuta introduced us to more cousins Irena and Josef.
I never imagined such an amazing adventure. I have stayed in touch with my cousins from both branches.
Last year I went back with my daughters to Krzywa and met Krzysztof and his extended family and attended the Lemko Watra.
Zen and PolishOrigins WERE everything they claimed and more. I can’t thank them enough for providing me a trip of a lifetime and memories to match. Poland was always in my genes, and now it will forever be in my heart.