I’m making my way around my father’s side of the family during the second part of my visit to Poland. Besides ciocia Bronia who I am in regular contact with the rest of that side of the family is a bit more mysterious. In order to get to know them better some effort has to be made to spend time with them. Bronia was kind enough to make some areangements with her siblings to make that happen.
When not obligated to be anywhere the alarm is not set. It is one of those guilty pleasures that has become habit during times of leisure and unemployment. Waking up in a new place disoriented but still early enough to say good morning to my aunt before she went to work. She has a half day or a somewhat short day at work and then the next day off.
“Make yourself at home.” She told me “you already know where everything is.” Having been here at their house many Tims I am familiar with the location of the important things like coffee. Food and everything else is plentiful and the time before she comes home will be utilized productively. Outside the temperature rose above freezing and it was actually quite nice. The sun shined illuminating the cavernous interior. I moved through the floors like a ghost quietly careful not to disturb my uncle who was sleeping in before his afternoon shift.
These quiet moments were good as it gave me time to recoup some energy toward our discussions. We often talk about a wide range of topics as Bronia has a great deapth of knowledge about many things. She has a bit of a conservative viewpoint while mine tends to be a bit more liberal. She has taught me a lot about Polish history and the many nuances that have shaped its course through history. Poland has been invaded and destroyed a few times and rebuilt from those ashes every time. It has relied on its faith to keep it strong and unified in those dark times and thus it is strongly associated culturally with this faith.
As we discuss some of this history it is clear that various forces have contributed to the present state of affairs. These forces are global and are not only shaping the direction that Poland is going but also the direction that the rest of the world is going. There is a battle going on as strings are pulled by various factions that wish to direct events to suit their desire for wealth and control. Is there a global cabal that runs and controls us? Are these global elites really in control of everything? Are our social institutions built up since the last world conflict becoming eroded in order to fulfill some sinister end? Is the media that permeates our culture so pervasively destroying rationality while at the same time destroying our emotions too?
Our conversations while not always heavy with some of the aforementioned themes took place as we prepared and ate lunch and dinner together. I’m greatful for this time and our conversations. I am at a slight disadvantage when trying to explain my point of view as my Polish vocabulary is not as robust as my English one. Nevertheless challenges build strength and my immersion within Poland always strengthens my Polishness and language if you know what I mean.
Today we were going to go to the region where my dad and his siblings grew up. Two of my aunts still live in there having subdivided the property between them and over time parceled off pieces of it. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen them. I don’t know what’s in store and neither does Bronia. She says that my presence and desire to go and meet with them forces her to go and hang out with them.
There is a complicated history with my dad’s side of the family. By the time he was fifteen both of his parents passed away and as he was the second oldest of the bunch and somewhat responsible he cared for them as much as he could. Bronia being the youngest was kindly taken care of by a sister of the parish priest. The sister never married or had any children of her own but the family that adopted her raised her as one of their own and the new environment allowed her to develop into the woman that she became. The rest of them did as well as they could under the circumstances. Poland was a communist country then recovering from the trauma of war and stifled by the powers that held sway over its destiny.
We drove through Andrychów the city that I began my life in. It is somewhat disheveled as one drives through its core. The village my dad grew up in is up in the hills outside the city. Little houses dot these hills as there is a continual expansion of the population in these parts. Money that was earned somewhere else that has been brought into the country and invested in these new developments.
We finally made it to the area and entered one of my aunts houses. It has changed since I saw it last. They have refurbished the interior to a high standard. The newness and modern fixtures have brightened the space. We were both welcomed warmly and were shown around finally ending up in the sitting room. We began by chatting and I was asked about my plans. I told them as best as I could what’s in store for me in the near future as beyond that I’m not really sure myself.
It’s interesting how different their words are. They speak with a dialect that is a bit harder for me to understand. It’s funny that my dad doesn’t speak or sound like them. If he did it would have surely trickled down to me and the way I pronounce my words. I listened to how they spoke to each other and paid particular attention to their mannerisms and manner of expressing themselves. A picture emerged of how age has brought new issues as some old issues have faded away. Absence of other members of the family also spoke of things that lie beneath the surface that were only slightly alluded to.
We sat and spoke with each other for quite a long time. I’m glad it was a real conversation and not just a cordial get together. We are family after all and we should accept each other warts and all. Even though this time together was in the greater scheme not really long at all I’m glad that we had it. It’s good to get a feel for where I’m from.
The last full day of my visit and I’ll get to see cousins that I haven’t seen since I was a little boy. They are my godfathers kids and he sadly is no longer with us. The first time I came to these parts as an adult I had a chance to reaquaint with him. To get to know him and his wife. The last couple of years have kind of been a kind of reawakening and rekindling of contacts once thought lost and nearly forgotten.
Leaving signals a new beginning. This day is the last day that I’ll see Bronia and Krzysztof and my cousin. We had a quick goodbye hugging and wishing each other all the best. My luggage was supposed to be lighter but what I left behind got replaced by other things which thankfully are much lighter than the things I left behind.
We stopped in Wadowice to buy a present that Chrl requested I get for her folks. I hope it meets the expectations. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I got exactly what I needed. We even stepped into the historic church that inspired a young boy and propelled him to papacy. Then we had a coffee and kremòwki a traditional dessert that I’ll have to learn how to make.
On our way we picked up Jadzia and chatted for a while. Since my uncle passed away she has been living on her own in their place but she said that she has been managing well. She has a very positive personality and it was nice to have this time. On our way to the restaurant we went to visit my uncle’s grave and light a few candles. It was the first time that I was there since his passing.
At the restaurant her kids showed up with their kids and her great grand child! The little one is a few months younger than my nephew and at his age knows how to command attention. Funny how such little ones are able to command such attention naturally. I met some of my cousins for the very first time along with their spouses and their little ones.
We had quite the conversation between us. I felt the connection that exists between us. There was a lot to take in as there were about fifteen of us there. Four generations around a table. Pictures only give a glimpse of who they are. Interacting with them and hearing them speak gives me a fuller appreciation of them. It gives me motivation to visit them again. Much of this visiting has been at the expense of touristing. During this week I could have just as easily spent this time being a tourist but somehow this was the only thing I could think of doing. I’m happy that this has been embed for me.
After this time we drove to Krakòw as I had one more visit to make with my uncle Józef. I promised him that I would visit him before I left the continent. We last saw each other during the wedding. This time it will give me a chance to have one more chat with him as he remembers a lot about how things were back then. The street in front of his place is always jam packed so there is never any place to park. Ciocia Bronia and I quickly said our goodbyes as the cars behind her started to pile up. I had to use a different entrance to enter his flat as the one I normally use is being renovated.
Józef welcomed me with open arms and a warm hug. He was waiting for me watching some television. In Wrocław there was some kind of film or entertainment ceremony happening and some big stars were in attendance. Soon he changed the channel as the Kraków Darby was happening between Cracovia and Wisła. Two teams that share the same city and are fierce rivals especially fierce between their supporters. Many a fight happened between them over the years as fans are often hooligans.
We ate and chatted kind of late and we realized that we had to leave here his flat at about 0430 in the morning in order to make it to the airport for my 0630 flight. Time passes quickly and we remarked to each other how quickly it really does pass. The last three months, the last four or five years… poof! Gone just like that. *snaps fingers*
I’m greatful that he was able to drive me to the airport and that we had this time together. I’m really happy that I was able to to fit seeing everyone over the last week but it’s time to go back and begin a new phase in life.