Last month, my wife Dorothy and I took an eleven day genealogy/history tour of Poland with PolishOrigins. I highly recommend them. They worked tirelessly, even before Dorothy and I arrived in Poland, to find genealogy records and living relatives. They went way beyond the usual genealogy research. For example: I have a letter from Poland that was written to my maternal grandmother in Chicago during the 1960’s. Zenon, our guide, had me scan the letter and send it to him before we arrived in Poland. He actually was able to find the author of the letter, Janina, a 77 year old second cousin of mine. He telephoned her in the little village of Zdrochec which is located about an 1 1/2 hour east of Kraków. By the time we arrived in Poland, he had set up a lunch date with Janina and her family. When we arrived at Janina’s house, we shared photos and stories (by the way, we don’t speak Polish and Zenon was also our translator). Among the photos I brought to Poland was a picture of my grandmother’s sister. Janina had the exact same photo! Pretty cool! Then the food came out. All I can say is WOW, what a feast. We even sang a merry version of “Sto Lat.” After lunch, several of us visited the local cemetery. After saying goodbye, Dorothy, Zenon and I headed to the next village, Sikorzyce, where the house from which my maternal grandparents emigrated in 1912 was located. Unfortunately, nobody was home. Zenon spoke with several neighbors and even the mayor’s wife in an attempt to find some living relatives. No luck. Still, it was a great, great day.
Earlier in the vacation, we spent two days exploring cemeteries and researching records in the small villages of Zbójna and Dębniki. My paternal grandfather emigrated from Dębniki in 1892. On the first day, Zenon pored over records with the local pastor and the village registrar in an attempt to find living relatives. Not much luck, however. On the second day of our time in the area, a third cousin of mine who I had never met and her husband came from Warsaw (about two hours away). Zenon had contacted them before Dorothy and I left for Poland. The five of us spent the day doing the usual genealogy research and also visited a World War II battlefield where the Poles first resisted the Nazis. At the end of the day, the five of us went to dinner where Dorothy and I were taught how to drink vodka “the Polish Way.”
Besides the genealogy research, PolishOrigins also arranged several great tours for Dorothy and me. We toured Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow and Auschwitz. Visiting the Gdansk shipyards and the concentration camp at Auschwitz were extremely moving. Also, Krakow is a world class city definitely worth touring.
There are some other things that made our eleven days in Poland very, very special:
1.) As I said before, Dorothy and I can’t speak much Polish. With Zenon doing the translating, we were comfortable at all times.
2,) With PolishOrigins, we fit our tour to our needs – no canned itineraries. PolishOrigins did everything possible to make all our wishes come true.
3.) The people at PolishOrigins were extremely flexible. When possible, they adjusted our itinerary literally within minutes. No problem.
4.) During our vacation, Zenon was willing to discuss any topic with us. Topics such as communism, Nazism, current events in Poland were discussed. I can’t think of any topic he avoided.
5.) My wife is Irish and knew very little about Poland. Because of our experience with PolishOrigins, she came to love the country.
Finally, I opened this review by calling our eleven days in Poland a vacation. Because of PolishOrigins, this experience was more like a pilgrimage.