Aleksander, thank you so much for your expert assistance to make our trip to Poland such an amazing adventure. Everything about the trip was first class including the wonderful cities, towns and small hamlets we visited, the guides who provided compelling and interesting narrations and insights, the transportation services, restaurants, hotels, and most importantly, the wonderful Polish people we met on the trip. From our arrival at the Krakow airport to our departure in Warsaw, everything went smoothly and effortlessly thanks to your attention to detail and the quality of the services your company and contractors provided.
Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Warsaw and the small hamlets of our relatives were all fascinating in their unique ways.
The Queen Boutique Hotel in Krakow was a real gem. It was close to the city center and the rooms were very comfortable and overlooked a monastery orchard so they were peaceful and quiet. Joanna Bryg-Stanislawska met us at the hotel and give us a wonderful tour of the Krakow Old Town and market square, Wawel Hill, and a short introduction to Polish history. The next days trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau went smoothly although it was very sobering and a bit overwhelming for the obvious reasons. Our guide there was very good and the experience was one we will never forget.
Our morning history lesson with Kuba (Jimmy) Lukasinski was great. The two-hours went by very quickly and everyone enjoyed asking questions and listening to Jimmy recount his insights into the facts and legends of Polish history. The next day’s bus to Wroclaw was very comfortable as we all enjoyed the stress free scenic drive (as in we did not have to drive). Wroclaw is such a beautiful city it is hard to believe it has rebuilt itself since the war. The churches, Market Square and Old Town were wonderful to visit. The AC Marriott Hotel was very central to all the locations and was very comfortable and quiet.
Michal Chmielewski made the trip a special experience for all of us. Everyone was most complimentary and appreciative of his friendly manner and knowledgeable commentaries on current and historical Polish events. He was an excellent guide; friendly, well-informed, effective, organized, and so accommodating to our group’s needs. We were especially thankful for his efforts to contact the local parish priests so we could have access to the insides of the churches connected to our ancestors. The smooth and informative translations he did between the priests and our group is something we will always remember. In addition to the church visits he also located several of the nearby ruins of the the old palaces where the land owners who probably employed our relatives had lived. We also enjoyed meeting “Roman” our bus driver. He was a real pro behind the wheel and was friendly and interesting.
The biggest surprise of the trip was our meeting three of our Pilarski relatives at the cemetery in Mielzyn on September 12th. As you know, Sebastian Błochowiak has been doing research for me for some time and has sent me many records. Several weeks ago I sent him an invitation to join us for dinner in Poznan. On September 9th I got an e-mail from Sebastian accepting the dinner invitation for September 11th. We met him for dinner and had a wonderful and interesting conversation. At dinner he provided the names of three relatives who were willing to meet with us and a phone number to contact them. The next day I gave the phone number to Michal and he was able to make all the arrangements on a very short notice. The family meeting was absolutely wonderful and again Michal was there providing a seamless translation between the two families and the parish priest Fr. Slawomir Zadluzny who was very gracious and helpful. After we had our initial meeting Fr. Zadluzny gathered us together and offered a prayer for the souls of our dead relatives and the health of our families. This was an unexpected once-in-a-lifetime experience that we could have only hoped for. One of the relatives we met has a son living in London who I will contact in the near future. Another relative, Eugenius Pilarski, was very interested in my family history chart and asked many interesting questions. The conversation could have gone on for some time but he had to get back to work and we still had a busy schedule ahead of us. Another nice surprise for the trip was an e-mail I received September 5th from Lidia Zawrot who was doing research on our Borkenhagen family. She sent me the birth record for our great grandmother Caroline Marquardt Borkenhagen from the village church of Klodkowo. Again Michal was able to contact the local priest so we could see the inside of the church. The church has the baptismal font dated 1617 where our our great grandmother was baptized.
Malbork and Gdansk were fascinating locations to visit even if we just scratched the surface of the things to explore. The train ride from Gdansk to Warsaw was a great, if only the trains in America could be so nice. The driver who took us to the station in Gdansk went out of his way to personally walk us to our train platform. The man who met is at the train station in Warsaw made a real impression with his stylish red coat and two helpers. I thought he would be our guide to the city but we met him only for the brief journey from inside of the train station to the cab. Something so simple but again, so well done. The Warsaw guide was exceptional. His command of English and the history of Warsaw made the city come alive for all of us.
As all the family members were thanking me for the great organization and flawless execution of the itinerary, I kept reminding them it was not me but Aleksander who made it all happen. You provided the names of the genealogy researchers, made hotel recommendations, and made the arrangements for the knowledgeable and helpful guides and efficient and timely transportation services. Even in Warsaw, the driver was in the hotel lobby at least 15 minutes before our scheduled pick up time of 5:50 in the morning!
We loved our trip to Poland. It was perfect. Thank you again for the memories!