Very happy with my guide Zen. Very dedicated, thorough, flexible and kind.
The city tour guide in Warsaw was excellent. Very nice, and well versed and knowledgeable. Not that I asked hard questions, but he always had the answer when I did.
Very happy. Found relatives on 2 different branches of my tree. One PO had helped me contact before, so we had made plans to meet. The other we found after 2 days of playing detective and pounding the pavement. It was amazing. Really unbelievable that we really did find them like that. Couldn’t be happier.
Overall happy and satisfied with the tour and my experience. I would gladly and happily recommend.
Both Pawel and Lucek were excellent guides and, through informal conversations, gave me insights to contemporary issues in Poland. Pawel was tireless in driving and keeping up a conversation about sights, issues, and history. Lucek gave me valuable cultural information on meeting people, including my relatives. Both were open to answering questions.
I was pleased with the research I was able to do, especially since the priest in my great-grandparents’ village (Dobra) seemed recalcitrant about offering help. Lucek patiently followed up with a lead the priest gave us and we found a young archivist who had put the parish records in order and who worked well with us.
I highly recommend this tour and will advertise it by word-of-mouth.
I never thought I could fall in love with a country like I did. I do love Poland. The genealogy was very thorough and so much fun to find birth certificates of my grandfather’s family. I will never forget all of the kindnesses we experienced along with the out of the way little things that I requested (such as finding great yarn that was grown and spun in Poland). Great trip, great guides, all were very helpful and knowledgeable that my mind is still reeling with all of the information and fond memories that I will hold close to my heart always. I have and will tell family and friends about using PolishOrigins. Just loved all of it. A big hug and thanks to all of you.
We had so much fun standing where my grandparents may have been. I got some valuable information and a great time too. It’s a memory forever and when we come back to Poland we would love to contact you, everyone was so helpful and friendly.
You answered all of my questions promptly and I asked a lot. I felt prepared and and you were extremely friendly and curtious.
This trip was so far beyond my expectations that I couldn’t believe it.
Pawel did an excellent job. There were a few medical problems on the trip and he took care of it nicely. His knowledge of Polish history was very good. It was easy to get along with him.
I was very satisfied. I never thought I would meet family but I did. there is even family here in the states that I didn’t know about.
This was one of the best tours I took. Everyone got along on the bus which helped a lot. Both the the tour guide and the driver did an outstanding job.
Pawel was the best guide that I have experienced over the years of many tours. He was kind, patient, knowledgeable, and had a wonderful sense of humor. If I am ever able to return to Poland, I would definitely go with Polish Origins and request Pawel’s services.
I am most satisfied with the research done by Lujcan before the trip and the research we were able to do in the villages. His knowledge and abilities could not be exceeded. The best part of my visit was that he found for me, a cousin that I did not know I had. I plan to use his research and translation services as I go further in my quest for family information. He, too, is a most valuable person in your company. I would definitely request his services if I return to Poland!
This was the most fantastic trip I have ever taken. It truly was the Grand Adventure that I was calling it while I was preparing to go!!!
Read more on Marti’s blog
Kasia is not only quite knowledgeable about the areas we visited – Krakow, Zakopane and the Bieszczady, but also she is very enthusiastic. Her love for Poland is catching! She took into consideration all of my requests. In fact she builds on information one shares with her and makes it even better. I loved her tours in Krakow of the castle, the church, the salt mines, the underground city, and just walking around and exploring with her. She always made sure we were settled in at our hotel before leaving us for the night. The traditional restaurants she chose in Zakopane were fantastic, especially the one with the country band playing! I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Bieszczady – seeing the small things – little shops, little museums, kind people. From the beginning Kasia was a super guide. In the end, she became a friend. Thank you so much, Kasia.
Smolnikowe Klimaty – very nice country-style bed and breakfast inn. Room was large and wood paneled. Loved interacting with the other guests, with Kasia’s help. Hosts were friendly, animals were nice, especially the indoor cat. Breakfast was super fresh and delicious. It was like living in a Polish village one or two hundred years ago.
Hotel Aries – great modern hotel, done in Zakopane style. Nice rooms. So close to Krupowki St.! A swimming pool to wash away the aches from walking. Fantastic breakfast in a beautiful atmosphere!
Hotel Stary – mere words fail to express a stay at the Hotel Stary. It was like being in a fairytale and I was queen(the good queen, of course). The location – in the old town. I didn’t have to go anywhere else. I love Krakow’s stary rynek. The hotel staff was friendly, helpful and fulfilled any request immediately. The lobby was full of brick, glass, metal and comfortable leather sofas. A computer was available for guests to use. Breakfast was very nice and in a room that was for guests of the hotel only. The hotel had an unbelievably super pool with brick walls, salt room, steam rooms, sauna and long hours. Heaven. Our rooms were incredible! When I first walked into my suite of rooms, I thought, “What have I done to deserve this?” Ancient log ceilings. Huge bed in a huge room. A livingroom with red leather chairs. A tv in each room. Super contemporary bathroom with heated floors. Everything done in a faux-stone decor. Aga, I wonder if you told them that I was the president’s wife or something when you made the reservation? From now on, I can only stay at this hotel when I go to Krakow again. I felt like I was living in Krakow at a time when kings and queens lived there.
Kasia is and excellent driver both in the city and the country. The car was comfortable with lots of room for our luggage. Kasia would appoint a time for the next day. She was always on time. She always made sure we were secure before she left us.
I enjoyed working with Aga preparing for the tour. There would be much to do in just a few days’ time. Preparing was about how to make a time-intense trip seem leisurely. Aga took into considerations my ideas and combined them with the “mini tour”. I am so grateful to Aga for arranging a meetings with my friends, Martin and Kasia. It was so good to see them again.
Extensive research done with amazing results.
Hotels were all very good and in great locations.
We loved Zbigniew. He is very knowledgeable and resourceful and has great tenacity.
We also appreciated Marek’s assistance in Warsaw. He responded and adjusted well to our group’s interests.
We love you Zbigniew and miss you. We had a great time. It was a trip of a lifetime for us. We’ll meet in Minsk next!
See also post Marie on FB.
We could not have asked for a better guide than Zenon. He worked very hard to help us find the information that we were seeking, translated conversations with people we had met and helped me with my Polish when needed. I am still working on two words that he taught me…I think I ALMOST have it right ! (I will know it by the time I return to Poland). He was very respectful to everyone we met and I believe that was why they were so willing to help us.
My first goal was to walk through my grandfather’s village to see where they lived, went to church, shopped and were buried. I still can’t believe I was there!
My second goal was to find out why I grew up surrounded by such a beautiful family. I realized while traveling Poland that my grandfather had grown up in just such a family and passed it down to his children. All of the people we had contact with were good and kind and caring. I felt like I was at home in the midst of strangers. We were invited into the home of a family that we were not even sure were relatives and had coffee and cake in their dining room – if nothing else had happened on the trip – that would have been enough!
My third goal was to find my great-grandparents marriage certificate. Although we worked very hard to find it, I will just have to keep looking. We are going to have the Archdiocese Archives staff do some research for us as we have “hit a wall”. Despite that, I was very satisfied with the records that we did find. As I told Zenon, anyone who does genealogy knows that information isn’t always where you think it is. I have been searching my family history for 25-30 years and only within the last 3 years have I found my grandfather’s village. The best news is, however, that Zenon found another village that I had been looking for for years!! It answered a big mystery on many of my records. We did find records on other family members and now I will have to piece all of the families together.
We stayed at the Hotel Stara Gorzelnia in Lichen Stary which was about 20 minutes from my family’s village. It was a beautiful hotel situated on a lake with large rooms, comfortable beds, a nice bathroom, friendly staff and good food. It was also within walking distance of the largest cathedral in Poland.
Good job, Anna!
Having Zenon doing all of the driving took a lot of pressure off of us. We were originally going to try to do this tour ourselves. I’m very happy we didn’t!
Our tour was perfect. On the next trip, I would try to bring more family information with me…and improve my Polish.
We will definitely be returning to search for the other side of the family. The Polish Origins tour is done very professionally and we would certainly recommended it to anyone interested in a genealogy tour.
You have two great assets to your company in Pawel and Adrian. They went above and beyond which should have been expected of them. As you are aware of some of the situations that arose, they handled them with professionalism and compassion. I honestly cannot say enough good things about those two gentlemen.
I will say Lucjan was wonderful. He was a great interpreter and a big help in locating Jack’s family.
All of the accommodations were wonderful. The food was exceptional.
I feel that the communication was good. Any questions/concerns were answered.
On the way to Poland, I was not sure of what to expect. Yes, I searched the internet for all the places we were to see but in the back of my mind I wasn’t sure what I would find. Knowing Poland was invaded during WWII and later by the Soviets and I was not sure how much of those circumstances would be evident today. What a surprise I had when we left Krakow and went into the countryside. Poland is an amazing country. The beauty of the land and the friendliness of the people left a lasting impression on me. Every church was more beautiful than the last. The scenery was picturesque. The tour with the different sights was outstanding. It gave me a better understanding into the Polish culture. I had a wonderful time. I made a lot of memories, had some great experiences and met new friends. Since I have returned I have told people they need to experience Poland. I also said that if they were to go to contact your group. You did an awesome job in planning our first trip to Poland. This was an awesome experience.
Most aspects of our tour were coordinated by Anna at PolishOrigins. They did a great job pulling it all together. This was a totally custom tour designed to see cities and locations where Greg’s father Eugene was born and lived before 1939. Secondarily, we wanted to find out as much as we could about Eugene’s military service in WW2 and also to identify any living relatives.We also wanted to see the Kamedulski monastery and see if we could understand the connection between our surname and the monastery.
We flew out of JFK on Thursday September 1, arriving in Warsaw on Friday afternoon due to a flight delay in New York. We checked into the Polonia Palace hotel ? one of the few pre-WW2 buildings in Warsaw. We walked around central Warsaw for a bit and then met Greg’s cousin Julita. We walked around a bit more with her and then had a delicious dinner. Saturday we toured Warsaw with a guide, who took us to try various Polish foods, showed us Old Town, and explained a lot of the history of Warsaw and how it was destroyed during WW2 and then rebuilt. Later Saturday we visited the Jewish museum with Julita and went through the Holocaust exhibit. We also went to the Polish Military Museum in Warsaw but we were too late to go in. We did meet the curator as he was leaving for the night and he invited us to come back Sunday morning.
As I managed to leave both pairs of good jeans in the dryer, we visited some local shops to see if I could find a pair of adequate jeans. TKMaxx (yes, TK) had nothing. But next door to TKMaxx was the London-based Marks and Spencer. They did have jeans, in my size *and* in my length. Not being quite up on the currency, I had no idea what 179 zlotys was going to translate to, but they allowed us to pay with dollars ? and the answer is something on the order of $32. I should have bought more!
The next morning, Sunday, Greg went to Mass. Wearing shorts to Mass is frowned upon by Polish nuns. Please make a note of that! We met our guide/translator/driver, Mat, and returned to the Military Museum. The curator met with us for about an hour and we talked about the meaning of Eugene’s medals and the history of the Panzer Division that Eugene had been part of. We left with notes about books and another group to contact.
Then, we were on our way to Brzesc Kujawski. This is the village where Greg’s dad was born ? we had both his birth certificate and his social security application stating this village was his birthplace. This is a small village of about 2000 people east of Warsaw and north of Lodz, essentially part of the Vistula River valley. Most of the Kamedulski families in Poland ? which number under 100 ? are located in villages in this area. We visited the parish church where Eugene would have been baptized ? tall, gothic. brick church just off the village square. They don’t see many tourists and the young boys riding bikes in the square were a bit shy but practicing basic English greetings with us. We went to the local cemetery looking for gravestones. In Poland, they only leave the graves in the local cemetery as long as they are cared for ? so it’s the most recent graves, maybe the past 30 years, that are there. We split up to walk through ? and in an amazing bit of luck, I found a gravestone for Jan Kamedulski in my first row of stones.
There is a pizza restaurant on the square. Greg says his dad never ever ate pizza and would not have approved. We had a lunch of 2 large pizzas and 2 drinks for the 3 of us. The converted cost was about $10. We stayed overnight in Wloclawek ? a town not far from Brzesc where there was a nice hotel. Clearly off the tourist trail, this appears to be an old city home converted to a hotel and event space.
On Monday some of the magic began to happen.
About 2 years ago, I was friended on Facebook by Aleksander Kamedulski, who was quite sure we were related, but did not know exactly how. When we were coming to Poland, I let him know and he said he?d meet us in Warsaw. After I sent him our itinerary, Aleksander suggested we meet in his home town of Nieszawa (Neeshava) which is about 30 km from Brzesc. We set a time for about 4 pm on Monday. In the meantime, we went to a cathedral and a second records repository in Wloclawek (Wloclarek) to search old church records for other Kamedulski relatives, and found them to be written in Polish, Latin, and Russian. My Russian courses come in handy as I was able to figure out how to spell Kamedulski in Russian cursive! My high school Latin was also very helpful ? making up for the fact that the Polish might as well have been Greek. We found nothing ? confirming that the Kamedulski name is relatively rare. (In fact, there are 54 people with the Kamedulski surname in Poland, and maybe another 50-60 Kamedulska, the female version. In addition, there are two branches of the family in the US, perhaps totalling 35 living people.)
Then we went back to Brzesc. We went to town hall and looked through their records ? this is where we found the original entry of Eugene’s birth. The town clerk was quite interested in our search and got on the phone. She called the oldest person she knew in town and asked about the Kamedulski family. Yes, she remembered the Kamedulski’s ? they had lived in a group of houses a few kilometers outside of town. But ? she also knew a woman about 60 years old whose maiden name was Kamedulska. The clerk gave us her address and we drove out to see if we could contact her. It turns out that Henryka Kamedulska is a cousin of Greg’s ? descended from the brother of Greg’s grandfather.
Greg’s grandfather, Eugene’s father was Michel Kamedulski. Michel had two children, Eugene and Irena. His brother, Walenty, had ten children. Henryka is decended from Walenty. Her father was Jan, whose gravestone I?d found in the Brzesc cemetery. We met Henryka and she invited us in for coffee. On the spot. Strangers from the United States. We had a lovely chat, met her grandaughter Carolina, and took a picture of the group. And then it was on to Nieszawa.
We were greeted by an enthusiastic Aleksander, who introduced us to his mother, who is the Kamedulska descendant. He carries his mother’s surname. Aleksander is 22 and an aspiring opera singer. We drank coffee, ate some wonderful cakes, tried some homemade ‘sherry? and discussed the family history including the origin of the Kamedulski surname. Then we toured the little village, crossed the Vistula river on a ferry, much like the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill Connecticut river ferry, and went back to their house for more sherry and then traditional Polish soup. Aleksander sang for us ? some opera pieces followed by Strangers In The Night. He has an amazing voice and is an up and coming talent. We finally left at 10 pm and headed back to our hotel in Wloclawek.
The next morning we visited Brzesc again, and pressed onward to a monastery in Bieniszew. The Camaldolce religious order is an Italian order of monks. Living a strict life of prayer, they established a hermitage/monastery in Bieniszew in in 1600s. Greg and Mat were able to enter through the gates into the complex ? but women are only allowed on 12 specific days each year ? so I sat outside and enjoyed the peaceful pine forest and sunshine. Greg and Mat toured the monastery with Brother John who was quite interested in Greg’s surname. The monastery is located in the middle of a large forest preserve ? we drove in from the main road a few miles on a dirt track. There are many monasteries in this tradition around the world including several in the states. In Poland, the Camadolce translates to Kamedulski. Apparently the connection, according to the family story, is that before surnames were in common usage, so late 1600s, early 1700s a young man entered the order, giving them his wealth which was customary when entering, but after a period of time, left the order. In the village, he was known as ‘the Kamedulski,? the man that had been a Kamedulski monk. All the Kamedulskis are descended from this one person. We are all related!
From Bieniszew we went on to Lodz where Greg’s grandparents lived. What had been an old tired manufacturing town when Greg last visited in 1969 reeking of coal smoke, is now a vibrant business center. We stayed in a converted factory hotel next to a restaurant – shopping – entertainment complex that had also been part of the former textiles mill. Our hotel room was not just a room, but a small apartment with a bath plus powder room, storage closets, living room and kitchen as well as the expected bedroom. The hotel decor was industrial-modern and very attractive. The rooftop bar, spa and pool were just lovely, with the pool cantilevered out over the side of the building. Breathtaking! Wednesday we toured Lodz and visited a cathedral as well as the downtown, but it was much too large without centralized records to search for relatives. We didn’t have an address for where Michel and Jolanta had lived ? so we had to be satisfied with simply touring the city.
Then, on to Krakow, via train. This was the purely tourist part of the trip. Krakow was not destroyed during WW2 and is a lovely old medieval town. We toured the city with a guide, trying traditional food in different restaurants and getting a good overview of the history and culture of Krakow. Greg played golf that afternoon at a resort outside of Krakow. I spent the afternoon wandering through Old Town and the markets to find Brad a birthday gift.
Overall, there were a lot of people that spoke English, especially in the larger towns. Many signs in the larger towns are in English and Polish. Everyone was very friendly and interested in our ?pilgrimage.? Overall, the food was amazing. I?d expected it to be all kielbasa and cabbage ? and that was not the case. The fruits and vegetables were excellent, but what really stood out was the extensive breakfast buffets. Generally ? cheeses, cured meats, tomatoes, eggs, sausage, bacon, breads, pastries, pickles, herring, salmon, fruit, juice, coffee, tea, espresso machine, vodka, prosecco, ? it just went on and on! This description applies to every hotel we stayed in ? Polonia Palace in Warsaw, Hotel Alexander in Wloclowek, Andel’s by Vienna House in Lodz, and Queen Hotel in Krakow.
Friday we flew out of Krakow to Munich, and then on to NYC. We left the hotel at 7 am Poland time, and landed in NYC at 3 pm New York time ? and got home about 8:00 pm due to slow baggage and worse traffic! (About 19 hours of travel.)
Overall, I think the tour was more than we expected and a great success. Greg was very happy to see the village of his father’s birth and to meet two sets of previously unknown cousins. The trip to the Kamedulski monastery followed a family meeting where we heard the oral history of our surname and so was an important part of the tour.