Zenon was everything we had hoped for in a guide. Friendly, fearless and undaunted in his efforts to connect us with the persons, places and locations of our ancestors. Part genealogist, part undercover detective in his ability to approach civil servants, store keepers, church officials and possible neighbors to gain more information to help unravel the whereabouts of our living relatives. He carefully studied all of the research we had completed before our arrival and provided us with a well thought out journey to each of the villages and churches contained in our family tree. His demeanor was so non-intimidating and approachable that most strangers immediately wanted to help us in our quest to find living relatives.
We always enjoyed our dinners at the end of the day where we discussed many topics, beyond genealogy. Zenon was always willing to help us with dinner choices by describing the type of food, preparation methods and any other questions we might have by interpreting and bridging any gaps with servers and staff .
Our driver to Auschwitz was on time and very helpful in making sure we understood the process for the day and where to meet him later in the afternoon.
Our walking-tour guide in Krakow, Joanna, was very personable and knowledgeable for the morning we spent with her exploring the city. It was a great way to begin our stay by giving us a wonderful orientation to the 5 days we were in the city. She was also quite helpful in discussing genealogy research in the Rzeszow area which was to be the final stop on our trip.
After two days we thought we had hit the high point when we visited the parish where our great grandparents had been married and the ringing church bells seemed to welcome us home. With tears flowing my cousin and I shared a hug and said the trip was already worth it to have experienced that moment. Little did we know what lay ahead on the final two days. After a second & third trip to the city offices to seek more information we decided to travel to a smaller more rural office where there might be someone more willing to share information about our family. While there, we were told the name of a specific village to visit and, while never giving us a name, we were told there was woman from the family who was still alive. After an additional stop at a local market, neighbors gave us a street and address. A few minutes later we were standing on the porch of an 85 year woman who was the daughter of our great grandmother’s sister. After Zenon’s explanation of who we were there followed many tears, hugs and her saying “I’ve been waiting for you”. We then were welcomed into her home and soon her son and daughter-in-law joined the reunion. We were asked to return the following day when we would be joined by two additional cousins. We shared pictures, our Family Tree, raised toasts, talked about our lives and found out about theirs. We even were able to get our 85 year old cousin to take a DNA test to add to the science side of our research! Meeting living relatives was our goal when we started planning the trip nearly three years ago. We originally went searching for the paternal side of our grandmothers but found success in finding descendants of the maternal side of the family. This result was made even sweeter when we found strong women from our grandmothers’ families who had survived the German invasion of the country to welcome us home to Poland. In our wildest dreams we couldn’t have written a better conclusion to our journey. Thank you Zenon and Polish Origins for making this trip one to remember for the remainder of our lives.