During breakfast Zenon and the owners’ of B&B mother discussed Murawski side of the family. We learned about a Szylkowski family living in Wizajny. Szylkowski was marriage name of my grandmother’s sister Stefania. We left the B&B and rode to the Szylkowskis farm. I didn’t have any expectations if I would discover living relatives.
We arrived at the farm we were warmly greeted by Jagoda. After short conversation we learned that this place was owned by grandson of Stefania Szylkowski nee Murawski! We then met Krzysztof, the owner of the original farm of Stefania and Wincenty. Krzysztof was amazed to see visitors in his kitchen. When he learned I was the granddaughter of Wiktoria Murawski he was so happy.
During our conversation we learned Antoni, Piotr and Anna were still alive. In the letters I have, it tells briefly about their live as children. Jagoda telephoned Antoni, Stefania’s son, that Wiktoria’s granddaughter was at their house. Antoni informed Jagoda that Anna, his sister, was still at the farm. Anna had been visiting Jagoda the week before and had extended her stay to visit longer with her brother Antoni. I was surprised that Anna was still at the farm. Jagoda even thought that Anna had returned to Warsaw Friday. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences.
We left for Antoni’s farm with Jagoda as a guide. On our arrival we were greeted with hugs and kisses. We met Antoni’s wife and son. We sat down and our conversations began with everybody speaking at once! Zenon was trying to interpret from 3 people at the same time. Antoni, age 90, was so excited. He called his cousin Walenty, Aleksandra’s son (Wiktoria’s sister) in Lithuania.
After an hour conversation we headed for Bokszyszki with Anna and Antoni. Bokszyszki is the name of village where grandmother was born. After WWII the entire village, including my great-grandparents home was burned by the Soviets because it became new border zone between Poland and Soviet Union. Before WWII the whole area was within Poland and Bokszyszki belonged to the Wizajny parish. And now the border split family. They even weren’t aware of fate of each other for many years after war because letters couldn’t go through the new border! From one of the letters written to my aunt in Cleveland it is stated that Stefania sometimes could see the smoke from the chimney of her parents home possibly indicating that there were still alive. Today Bokszyszki is no longer on the map. Gone…
As we traveling to Bokszyszki we were met in Lithuania by Walenty and his wife. We continued to travel towards Bokszyszki on a dirt road. Antoni told us this road was called “death road” because it was a border and anyone who tried to travel on this road during communism years would be shot down. We arrived at the forest and hiked about half a mile to the location of where my great-grandparents home used to stay.
As we approached there was a large maple tree planted by Walenty as a child.
Antoni described for us how he remembered hiding in the woods from the Germans during WWII, after he escaped from transportation to labor camp. He described escaping with just pants, without any shirt, being shot at. He lived the forest for couple of weeks eating grass and drinking water from puddles. One night knocked on a neighbors door, scaring them, and they hid him in a cellar for over a year.
For me to see my great-grandparents land with newly found two uncles and one aunt brought me unbelievable joy, surprise, shock. This was a moment I will never forget.
As we left the forest we picked mushrooms which is very common in Poland in Lithuania. This mushrooms are edible and very tasty.
It was a overcast day but no rain while we hike to the spot of the village. But as we were leaving a heavy rain began. When we reached the cars the rain had stopped. Coincidence?
After this incredible trip we headed for Wisztyniec to visit Walenty’s house and cemetery there.
This day was unbelievable, I learned about my great-grandparents, I heard many war stories from Antoni, how they lived their life during the war, under communism and now freedom.