Before discussing our discoveries, please allow me to digress a little.
The national symbol for Poland, like the United States, is an eagle. Notice the crown on the eagle’s head. Until 25 years ago, it had been missing for many, many years. Why? Under communist rule, Poland’s eagle was not allowed to be displayed with a crown as that went against the communist policy. Today, Poland’s eagle once again proudly has a crown.
As we traveled from village to village, our discussions ranged far and wide. At one point, Zenon mentioned that Poland was now in its 25th year of freedom. Intellectually, John and I knew that Poland had broken from the Soviet bloc in 1989, but being American and having our independence for over 200 years, we often fail to perceive the true experiences of others. Zenon, though a young man, still remembers life in a communist Poland. Of course, reading history, one realizes that the destruction of the Soviet/communist control of large parts of Europe began when Lech Walesa co-founded the first independent trade union, Solidarność, in the Soviet bloc. That step by the Polish people inspired others to follow and eventually lead to the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ and the Berlin Wall.
Both my grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island, New York and remained in Brooklyn, New York. Below is a photo taken in Brooklyn about 1906 and two photos taken on my trip showing the areas where my grandparents lived. It is hard to imagine how they must have felt leaving their homes in Poland forever.
It was probably terrifying and exhilarating at the same time! In 1913, Pelagia was 15 and traveled with an older teenager from the next village.
Rajmund was 17 when he left home alone in 1909.
The following discussion will not follow a daily format but will focus on the two regions of Poland and our most important discoveries beginning with Rajmund.
The above map was added to show where our research area was located relative to Warsaw and Poland’s border. The other map shows many of the roads we traveled in our search. Our hotel was in Kolno; Rajmund was born in Rydzewo-Swiaki; the church he attended was in Lachowo, and his last place of residence before leaving Poland was Kumelsk. We were in the town of Elk searching for regional land records.