Wanderlust: Polska 2014. Part 4: Ciechanów and Mława.

April 24, 2014

Had another great day researching with Magda Smolka. We started the day with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and an assortment of cheese, breads and fruit. Then it was on to Ciechanow and Mlawa to search in the archives.

In the archives.

We found nothing in Ciechanow, but in Mlawa she found some information on Antoni Balcerzak. In Ciechanow we walked through town and went to a Museum of the town. It had some wood working and folk art, including a copy of the painting of Stanczyk, the court jester by Jan Matejko.

They also had a wood carving of a famous painting of Teutonic Knights that is in the Warsaw Museum.

We had a very nice lunch with fresh food at the local bar. So off we went back to Mlawa as the clerk offered to look up some family for us. Nothing there. So we headed back to Ciemniewko. We met my dear cousin Anna Zalewska at the cemetery. We took photos of graves and stomped the grounds.

We met my dear cousin Anna Zalewska at the cemetery.
At the cemetery.

We then headed to the home of the  Pogonski family. They were very nice and we got to meet Jadwiga Kaniecka and her mother Barbara Pogonska in the house. Barbara had spent the entire morning weeding the strawberry patch and was too tired to come out and talk.  Outside, we talked to Jadwiga’€™s brother-in-law Jerzy Slaski. I  promised to help him find his  family who  immigrated to the USA back in 1912.  As we were leaving he said, €”Tell your President to help us with the Russians, tell him to send us more guns€!”.   He was laughing, but of course I know this Ukrainian situation has everyone worried.

Pogonski family.

Next Anna took us to see the old home of the blacksmith Balcerzak.  The Balcerzak family  sold it 2 years ago. We stopped to talk to the neighbor across the street who told us this information. Anna stopped at the next home and also asked about the Balcerzak family. When Anna had to leave to go milk the cows, the neighbor walked over and talked to us. A calf had kicked her in the nose, so her face was black and blue!  They were both very nice and were willing to share information they had on the Balcerzaks, who used to be their neighbors.

The old home of the blacksmith Balcerzak.

We headed to the church in Ciemniewko and mass was in progress. We waited till the end, and took some video and photos.

After a long day we headed back to the agrobusiness for dinner. We had oxtail, cheeks from the cow as a roast, dumplings and potato pancake.

Dinner in Gąsiorowo.
Local beer from Ciechanów.

My husband Mike cannot stop talking about the delicious food here! We give this agro-business in Gasiorowo 5 stars!!

What a day!!



  1. Magda was a great source of information. She told me to read The Peasants by the Nobel Prize winning author Władysław Reymont. I could not find the ebook, so instead I am reading his novel The Comedienne. It is not about a comedian, it is the story of a gal from a small town in Poland who moves to Warsaw to join the theatre. Give it a try, it is a free ebook online. Magda also said everyone in Poland uses the English expression, “Oh, God”……she is so right! Everywhere we went I heard it.
    When we met up with my cousin Anna at the Ciemniewko Cemetery I was very touched by how she honors the ancestors. She brought candles and placed them inside glass candleholders that were already on each grave, she even did one for a beloved neighbor! She is a very busy dairy farmer and was very patient as I took photos of all the headstones. I just will never be able to thank her enough for her kindness to us!
    Side note: the meal pictured above was the best Polish dinner I have ever had in my entire life. The chef is amazing. Kudos to Polish Origins for booking our stay there!

  2. My grandmother was full of stories about her parent’s life in Ciemniewko. They were both born and raised there, and actually met at the 2nd wedding of her maternal grandmother Scholastica Chojnowska Pogonska Balcerzak! It was quite a thrill to see the church they were married in as I had heard the story countless times of their first meeting as young children.
    My great-grandfather was raised in a Folwark that was managed by his father Andrzej Langiewicz. His father wanted all his sons to play the violin, and hired a Jewish teacher from Warsaw. My grandmother said the music teacher “used the violin stick to keep the students in trim” and they all learned it well. Saturnin and his 2 brothers Stephen and Stanislaw were all excellent musicians and used the skill to make a living. Saturnin played at weddings, communion parties etc. Stephen was a music teacher in New Jersey and Stanislaw was the church organist in Pennsylvania.
    By the way, if you end up in this part of Poland, you will be amazed at the beautiful Shrines on the side of the roads. Each town has at least one Shrine, and on the main roads you will see many of them decorated with ribbons and flowers. They are well tended and beautiful. Also, I saw more Storks here than anywhere else we traveled. Lots of them walking in the fields, in the nest and flying. Just lovely. 🙂
    As we drove along, Magda explained the history of the area and we learned so much from her vast knowledge on the history of Poland. The entire time we spent with Magda Smolka was just wonderful!

  3. When Mike and I were walking through the Ciemniewko Cemetery with Anna Zalewska and Magda Smolka it made me think of the poem “What Our Dead Do” by Zbigniew Herbert. This poem will make you cry:


    Jan came this morning
    -I dreamt of my father
    he says

    he was riding in an oak coffin
    I walked next to the hearse
    and Father turned to me:

    you dressed me nicely
    and the funeral is beautiful
    at this time of year so many flowers
    it must have cost a lot

    don’t worry about it, Father
    -I say-let people see
    we loved you
    that we spared nothing

    six men in black livery
    walk nicely at our side

    Father thought for a while
    and said-the key to the desk
    is in the silver inkwell
    there is still some money
    in the second drawer on the left

    with this money-I say-
    we will buy you a gravestone
    a large one of black marble

    it isn’t necessary-says Father-
    better give it to the poor

    six men in black livery
    walk nicely at our sides
    they carry burning lanterns

    again he seems to be thinking
    -take care of the flowers in the garden
    cover them for the winter
    I don’t want them to be wasted

    you are the oldest-he says-
    from a felt bag behind the painting
    take out the cufflinks with real pearls
    let them bring you luck
    my mother gave them to me
    when I finished high school
    then he didn’t say anything
    he must have entered a deeper sleep

    this is how our dead
    look after us
    they warn us through dreams
    bring back lost money
    hunt for jobs
    whisper the numbers of lottery tickets
    or when they can’t do this
    knock with their fingers on the windows

    and out of gratitude
    we imagine immortality for them
    snug as the burrow of a mouse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *