Trip of a Lifetime! Part 1.


For many years I have been trying to find my Polish relatives.  I knew they existed in the 1960’s because I remember sending clothing to “cousins”, however, I was young and did not know the value of family.  In the meantime, life got in the way and my search was hit and miss. When I retired and my search became an addiction.  The one bit of information I had was 3 letters to my babcia, from my swietny dziadek in the 1920’s.  He told of very sad stories about their life at the time and one story really touched our hearts; it was about his grandson, Josef. The letter told about how sick the child was and he wasn’t expected to live, mostly because they could not afford the medicine to make him well. We always wondered what had happened to this little boy.

At some point I talked my husband (of Irish descent) into going to Poland and had no idea what our adventure would bring.  Why would anyone go to Poland?

Sometime during the planning stages, I went to a meeting of the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts, where they suggested to join the Facebook group, Polish Genealogy.  It was on that website I posted the two last names of Stec (my grandfather) and Gawron (my grandmother).  Next thing I know I get a message from a “cousin” from my Stec side whose ancestors were from the same town as my grandfather.  He suggested I contact PolishOrigins because he had been in contact with Zenon. Zenon’s ancestors also are Stec’s and are from the same town, Pstragowa.  If you think this was all a weird coincidence, wait…..

Thinking we probably would not find any relatives, we booked 5 days of general touring and 5 days of genealogy working with Zenon. Pawel was our tour guide for Krakow, including all the other tourist stops; including Schindler’s factory,  Zakopane, Dunajec River Rafting, Tyskie Brewery, Auschwitz, Wieliczka Salt Mine, and in the middle of this, Poland’s beautiful panoramic vistas.  Pawel was a wonderful guide, very, very, very knowledgeable and a great personality…I wanted to adopt him.  Anna, from Polish Origins was in constant contact with us, making sure we were happy with our daily trips and I assured her we were more than pleased.  By the way, Pawel also knows all the best restaurants!

And then a story of a lifetime begins…We met Zenon somewhere between Krakow and Bobowa.  If nothing else, I was determined to see how and where the lace was made and I did.  At the time, I thought this would be the highlight of my trip.

From there we traveled to Pstragowa, my dziadka birthplace.  First stop was the church where the priest politely (?) told us we needed an appointment and return 2 days later on a Monday at 9 a.m.  We were unable to meet with the priest from my babcia parish until 6 that evening.  

So off we go for a history lesson of the area, and my husband was thrilled.

6 p.m. we arrive at the church in Strzyzow, my babcia parish.  This priest was also not so happy to help us, but relented.  We would have never been able to accomplish this without Zenon.  Next thing I know, we are finding records of relatives born in the 50’s and 60’s, same great-grandfather as mine, possibly still living in the Tropie, my babcia village outside of Strzyzow. My head was spinning!


(continuation of the story will be published soon in part 2)


  1. My father walked to England when Poland was invaded but died in 1949 (TB) when I was four years old (I have an older brother and two younger sisters, my mother was 50/50 English/Irish).

    Over the years we lost contact with my father’s family.

    In 2009, my wife and I visited Krakow with no idea of the how, whats, whys and wheres to start any search and left no wiser having thoroughly enjoyed our time in the beautiful Krakow.

    All I really knew was that the family were in Lvov (now Ukraine) and were displaced after the war to I knew not where although I had Katowice seeming familiar.

    In 2012, I received an e-mail from a student in Wroclaw with the same surname……

    It turned out that her grandfather and my father were cousins – what a result!!

    We traveled to Poland in May 2012 staying in Wroclaw. She had arranged meetings with various parts of the family tree, many emotional visits.

    Among the family members were a sister (93) and a brother (89) of my dad. Many family members live now in Chocianow (formerly East Germany).

  2. I thought you might be interested to know that you can read some 200 pages on Stryzow-Poland that have been translated into English. I personally typed these pages as part of volunteer work which I do for the Yizkor Project. You can find this and many other shtetls – towns that have very interesting materials on the Yizkor Memorial Books site which can be found at
    Yizkor (Memorial) Books are some of the best sources for learning about Jewish communities in Eastern and Central Europe.  Groups of former residents, or landsmanshaftn, have published these books as a tribute to their former homes and the people who were murdered during the Holocaust. 

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