Phyllis Zych Budka, Editor
Fifteen people met in Krakow to start on a PolishOrigins / Polish Genealogical Society of America Galicia Tour September 22 – October 3, 2019. Reflecting Galicia’s complex history, some ancestors identified as Polish, others as Ukrainian. The group included a mix of people at the start of their genealogy quest as well as others filling in some missing details. Below are short summaries of our 12 day trip experience which we share to encourage others to follow in our path.
Chris: For me and my husband, the Galicia tour was a way of acquainting ourselves with the world my mother was born into in 1910 and where she spent the first 10 years of her life. The tour provided many ways for us to walk in her shoes. The open air museum in Sanok, the Rynek Underground Museum and the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków each depicted aspects of peasant life (kitchen, barn, celebrations, births, marriages and death). We also visited beautiful churches with unique art work and design that attested to the religious devotion of Polish peasants, both Roman and Greek Catholic. I was struck by the representations of the Jewish experience throughout the Kazmierz district in Kraków, the old synagogue in Łancut, Shindler’s Factory Museum, and at Auschwicz/Birkenau. It helped me to understand what a great departure from the relatively harmonious co-existence of Poles of different faiths to sad events of the Holocaust. I am saving up my money to go back for another genealogical tour in Poland sponsored by the PGSA/PolishOrigins team.
Maria: This was my first trip to Poland. I had been looking forward to this for a long time. It was very well organized. Our guide, Pawel, and driver, Adrian, were very kind and helpful. Pawel was an excellent guide, full of historical information and current events. The variety of sites was wonderful. I felt the pace of the trip was well balanced, although I felt I would like more time at some of the exhibits (like Schindler’s factory) to absorb the information. The accommodations were wonderful and the food selections were very tasty! I felt very comfortable in Poland. If I would have stayed longer I may even have learned more of the language. PolishOrigins and Aga did a great job!
Charlene: To me, the PolishOrigins Galicia Tour was a deeply powerful experience. Witnessing firsthand the land of my ancestors, how they lived, and the daily challenges they faced was deeply profound. Visiting the Sanok Open Air Museum and the Ethnographic Museum allowed me to visualize the character of their homes, their farming methods, and how they kept warm at night as they slept. I found the archival lectures very helpful in aiding my search for my personal ancestry. Additionally, it was priceless visiting the State Archives where I was able to peruse historical texts dating back all the way to the 1400s! One of the highlights of the tour was our visit to the Zakopane region where our outstanding tour guide, Pawel, treated us to a leisurely hike, which included a breathtaking view of the Carpathian Mountains. We also sampled delicious smoked cheeses at a nearby farm and visited a beautiful church dedicated to Pope John Paul II, as a tribute to his miraculous recovery of his attempted assassination. The sanctuary is absolutely beautiful. Pawel, as well as our driver, Adrian, and fellow tour companions all made this trip a truly memorable experience! One fun side note, I learned that the term ‘babushka’ is actually an American term, not Polish.
Susan: Dzień dobry! I was truly blessed and honoured to visit the beautiful region of Southern Poland of former Galicia. It is thanks to Larissa (sister in law) for getting me into genealogy and the PolishOrigins PGSA tour. It is very interesting to learn about the archives and I was amazed how the documents/archives are well kept (I wish I could read Polish and Latin). On our journey to Zakopane, Paweł showed us the beautiful wooden churches. It reminded me of Viking churches when I was in Norway. Town of Zakopane also reminded me of Whistler (British Columbia, Canada) and Banff (Alberta, Canada) where people go for skiing, snowboarding, and outdoor activities. I always enjoy looking at these European churches; the architecture and the historical synagogue at Łancut, the hometown of Pope John II and Wieliczka Salt Mine. The taste of the ice-cream bought me back to my childhood. I really enjoyed the desserts; it was not crazy sweet. I also tried assorted pierogi; it was ‘to die for!’ The Krakow Market, I really enjoyed looking at the varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables, and it was mushroom season when we were there! The Old Town Krakow is a beautiful and gorgeous city! I am thankful to Paweł, our wonderful tour guide for taking and showing us around, Adrian, our amazing driver for driving to our destination A… to Z… and Phyllis, one of our beautiful guests, for getting our contact information and keeping us updated. I really enjoyed meeting these awesome people at the tour, the delicious foods, the drinks, and the company. Dziękuję bardzo!
Phyllis: This was my 8th trip to Poland since 1999. In the interim, I’ve gathered information about my Nowy Targ paternal ancestors, reconnected with maternal relatives in Poland and Lithuania, learned a lot about Poland’s history and made new friends.
The changes in Poland over this time are remarkable. As a European Union (EU) member, Poland has benefitted from EU investment and the hard working Poles have improved their economy; the results are visible in the cities as well as in the countryside. No longer considered a “third world country,” Poland is very welcoming and interesting. I encourage even those with no ancestral connections to visit and enjoy!
The more detailed report from the PGSA-PolishOrigins Galicia Tour can be also found in the lastest issue of Rodziny journal.
In 2020 we will continue our cooperation with Polish Genealogical Society of America and we are prepareing the tour in the former Russian partition of Poland.
There are also two Galicia Tour groups scheduled for 2020. All details are available here: https://polishorigins.com/tours/galicia-tour/