This is my great grandmother. She was born Karolina Musial and this picture is from about the time she emigrated from Poland to the United States, around the turn of the century. She would eventually become Karolina Weglarz and the mother of 11 children. The oldest girl was my grandmother.
This is how I remember her. This woman we called “Babka” lived on a small farm where she cooked the best tasting food, raised chickens and grew lots of vegetables. She had worked in a New Hampshire textile mill and everywhere you looked were braided rugs made from fabric remnants. Like Babka, the rugs were warm, colorful, durable, and welcoming. (With thanks and photo credit to my cousin Carol Powell)
Babka made Polish food and with her children–my grandmother, great aunts and uncles–she spoke Polish. My ethnic background is French Canadian, Irish, and Polish but the Polish element was, by far, the strongest cultural influence.
I have long wanted to visit Poland and see where our family comes from; and now I will!
Tomorrow I leave for Poland with my mother and my two sisters. We will visit the major sites, Czestochowa, home of one of the most significant religious icons in the country, the Black Madonna, Krakow and Auschwitz, etc. But we will also be visiting Polish culture and its people.
We will visit a small village where Babka’s family was from. We do not have contacts or known living relatives there, so it’s not an effort to reconnect with distant family. Rather, it’s a trip to reconnect with distant past. I have an expectation that I will meet people and sense that I’ve known them before.
It will be a reconnecting trip in more ways than one. My sisters and I all have families of our own and are spread up and down the east coast. My mom splits her time between New England and Arizona. The last time we went on a family vacation together was 25 years ago!
One exciting aspect is that we will have a guide throughout! Radek is a young school teacher in Poland, off for the summer. He is a friend of the family and has already been doing a lot of advance work making reservations and checking places out. I have warned him that we will wear him out with questions, requests for translations, and introductions!
I am hoping to blog during the trip and at the very least will send pictures and follow them up with blog posts.
I have to offer my profound gratitude to my mother. A year ago she heard that I wanted to visit Poland and mentioned that she did too. She enlisted my sisters and has organized the countless details that go into such a trip, and very generously funded the trip thus far. At a time when my sisters and I were too busy to plan more than a week ahead, Mom was sifting through guides, web pages, and corresponding with Radek to plan what appears to be the trip of a lifetime!
Thank you Mom!
So stay tuned, and prepare for a tour of Poland with the ToneMan!