This year, just before Thanksgiving Day, I have asked our guides and tour managers what genealogy means to them and for what they would like to thank their ancestors.
The first thing is all the stories told by my relatives and other people I have met. Some of them have had a huge impact on me. Especially those about the life obstacles they had to face. Poverty, wars, communism, personal tragedies. Some details are even difficult to imagine as is the story told by one relative of our guest from northeastern Poland. As a teenage boy he had to live in a forest. He was eating what he was able to find, was drinkingwater from puddles… There are also stories told by my grandmother about the occupation during World War 2 and many many others which stuck in my memory.
The fact that so many people, including my direct ancestors, my blood, were able to survive, gives me strength. For me it is a simple and powerful message: if they survived such hard times, I will also survive, because I have their blood. Especially in more difficult moments, which seem to be small compared to their struggle.
I remember one reaction of our guests from New Your City, who listened to such war stories and said that they survived the September 11 attack, their apartment was destroyed. They told me that this experience, very depressing for them, was NOTHING compared to what people experienced here during the war.
Apart from this strength I am grateful that I live in this place at this time. Not 100, 200, 300 or even 50 years ago, but right here and right now. Among those stories, there are many about the “simple”, or even insignificant life. About people who did nothing or who failed in their lives and pulled their closest down with them. I remind myself that I have to make the most from the time I have left. Take the most from each day as I am here, on the earth, only for a while and I do not know for how long yet.
My guests with whom I have been traveling often repeat: “I wish I talked to my parents, grandparents when they had been still around. They said so little about the “old country”. So many stories were lost and I knew them so little.” This inspired me to talk with my grandmother about her life. She passed away no long after but I have now a treasure to cherish: her voice and her stories recorded.
There is one more thing that genealogy gave me: my job in and on PolishOrigins. Thanks to it I can provide for my family and deliver, together with the team, the services of significant value and meaning for our clients.
I want to thank my ancestors for … my existence. I exist because my ancestors, in each generation, doubled in number, met and had children. If you take a look at let’s say 6 generations before, you will find that 32 male ancestors had to meet 32 female ancestors as a condition for your existence. What number of coincidences had to happen! I want to thank them for the whole cultural inheritance I received from them. The mix of cultures, habits, cuisine styles, convictions, and familiar stories which formed me and my background.
I want to thank my ancestors for simply being good people who maintained Polish and local traditions. My grandmother got married in her traditional dress, my mum had one when she was a young lady, and I only managed to try on during my last visit in Łowicz. Happy Thanksgiving!
I want to thank my ancestors and being more precisely – my grandmother – for teaching me German which was her mother`s language. Thanks to the German lessons given by her, she encouraged me to learn this language and made me study at a German university. Therefore I can work now as a Polish-German interpreter and tourist guide in Poznań which is my hometown introducing its interesting history to German tourists.
Genealogy gives me a sense of stability and continuity, for example, I am grateful to my grandmother, a seamstress, who taught sewing my mother, who taught me and now I am teaching my daughter. Although it’s just a hobby and not a living wage anymore, I am happy that the story goes on…