Monday, October 13, 2008

Trzesniow Treasures

Poland, 2008

Trzesniow wasn't on our map, but it was our destination. Dee had marked it's approximate location with a star on road #887. He made an abrupt left turn when we saw the sign pointing to a narrow, winding street that looked more like a long driveway.

Polish Countryside

We meandered past several tiny Polish towns with names we didn't recognize. They weren't on the map either so after a few miles we were officially lost. But it was lovely, and we figured our path would lead us somewhere we could hook up with the main road again.

Over there! We knew Trzesniow had a church. We followed the steeple in the distance.

Village Church Trzesniow, Poland

Although it was Sunday, the church was deserted. We must have arrived between services.

Trzesniow Church

Devout Catholics in Poland stayed faithful throughout the almost 50 years of atheistic Communist occupation of their country. Today meetings are well attended, and community life revolves around the church. Records of births, marriages and deaths have always been the responsibility of the village Priest, and we hoped to open some doors in our search for history.

Interior of Trzesniow Chapel

The inside was stunning.

Cemetery, Trzesniow

The cemetery behind the church was small and easy to navigate,
but the names all looked like this.

As I examined headstones, Dee slowly spelled the difficult last names we were looking for.
We were pronouncing one of them Presh-bu-la.
"P-R-Z-Y-B-Y-L-A," I repeated as he called over to me.

A young woman putting a bouquet on a grave nearby suddenly spoke up.
"I am Shuboowa!"
Apparently that was the correct pronounciation.

In very broken English she said that it was her family name. She and her husband were there to remember her father. Dee showed them a listing of the names and dates we were interested in. They both anxiously looked over the family group sheet, made hand motions trying to make us understand Polish by speaking loudly, and talked with each other. We didn't know if they understood what we were asking them, but they were enthusiastic about answering.

Indicating that her nephews spoke English, she motioned for us to follow them to her mother's house. We weren't sure what to expect, but they were so friendly and eager to help, we went along. They jumped into their car, and we followed in ours and drove a couple of blocks.

As we pulled into the driveway of a lovely three-story home, her elderly mother, two 18-20 year-old nephews and a teenage niece graciously greeted us at the door, and quickly ushered us inside and upstairs. Immediately we were served cake, and asked if we preferred coffee or tea. I answered "Juice?" and a small decanter of black currant juice was offered. We were the only ones who had refreshments, and they all sat and watched us eat. The room had hard wood floors, and heavy oak furniture, with a shrine to Mary in the corner and religious pictures over the fireplace. It was a comfortable, beautifully furnished home.

The nephews could understand our questions, and as they translated back and forth to the older woman, we discovered that the Przybyla family we were researching was indeed from this village. "Our Priest will have the relevant documents. We will be on this case. We will see it through for you." Leaving the information they needed, we shook hands with everyone, the mother hugged us and the group stood in the driveway and waved us off.

It was quite an incredible experience to have such friendship and hospitality from strangers. If someone I didn't know sat next to me in church, I would congratulate myself if I welcomed them and introduced myself. If they spoke to me in Swedish, and showed me a list that included my family names, I would be interested. I would probably wish them good luck and maybe call my sister and tell her about it. The last thing I would do is invite them home, find someone who spoke Swedish, feed them and get "on the case." These folks were our first Polish friends. But there would be more.

Bzianka School


Christie said...

Maybe their town is like the equivalent of Ephraim, UT, and they don't get many tourists. Maybe if you lived in Ephraim and never saw any outsiders, you MIGHT be excited to help.

But then again, why would you ever live in Ephraim?

Great pics!

Bonnie B. said...

What a neat experience! I wish I could have geneology experiences like that.

Sheri said...

Amazing story & pix. I love reading your travelogues. Please put your travel adventures together in a book someday!

kenju said...

Mr. kenju would wish to have that experience if and when he goes back to Italy to find evidence of his ancestors!

Keri(th) said...

Now that's a cool life to be living! What an adventure!

marta said...

i have never seen a cemetery so packed with blooming flowers! what a fun trip you've had.

Kenny and Linsey said...

How lovely.

Anonymous said...

I am an American and found myself in this town for two weeks. Worked in the fields and attended church in that church. Went to a wedding. Helped a cow give birth. Fished in a pond in the woods just past the church on the left past that little store across from the church. Gosh this article brings back fond memories. Thank you.