This is story published a few years ago on the old version of our website. Together with Mary Bier Wilson we decided that it is important for the interview with her grandfather to be published here for even more people to have chance to read it. A few years ago Mary, her late husband John and one of our guides Zen had chance to visit “Sukoluff” Austria, which is actually Sokołów Małopolski and Trzeboś, and step the same ground he once was stepping every day before leaving for his long journey.
We hope that it can also inspire some of your to interview your parents and grandparents as long as they are still among us. You can always wait with your research, but you shouldn’t wait with talking with your ancestors about their life…
The interview, which follows, was taped on a reel-to-reel tape by an older first cousin of mine who had lived with our grandfather for a number of years after our grandmother died in 1937. The interview was conducted in about 1956 when Grandpa was 86 and I did not know this tape existed until about 10 years ago, which was about 10 years after I began doing my family’s research.
Thankfully, my cousin had the foresight to do this interview long before most of us had been encouraged to do so by the genesis in the popularity of genealogy research that I think is due to the advent of the home computer and wonderful software programs that are easy for almost anyone to manage.
My cousin finally was able to make a cassette of the tape and, happily, shared it with me and I then transcribed it and gave it to ALL our cousins. I knew none of the information it contained other than Grandpa saying he was born in “Sukoluff” Austria. I knew Grandpa but did not have the opportunity to see him often nor was I interested in that “stuff” at the time.
Let me just say, it answered a great many questions but it also posed many new ones whose answers I am still seeking.
First thing next morning we are off to Tropie. Zenon gets out of the car and just walks right up to who we assumed is a neighbor and starts asking him questions about the possible location of my family….try that one in the U.S.! He gets back in the car and says, “your cousin lives across the street” WHAT?!?
For many years I have been trying to find my Polish relatives. I knew they existed in the 1960’s because I remember sending clothing to “cousins”, however, I was young and did not know the value of family. In the meantime, life got in the way and my search was hit and miss. When I retired and my search became an addiction. The one bit of information I had was 3 letters to my babcia, from my swietny dziadek in the 1920’s. He told of very sad stories about their life at the time and one story really touched our hearts; it was about his grandson, Josef. The letter told about how sick the child was and he wasn’t expected to live, mostly because they could not afford the medicine to make him well. We always wondered what had happened to this little boy.
At some point I talked my husband (of Irish descent) into going to Poland and had no idea what our adventure would bring. Why would anyone go to Poland?
When my cousin Andrzej e-mailed me and asked if I would like to accompany him to his goddaughter’s wedding in Poland, I accepted immediately. What could be better than traveling with a native son, who spoke the language and knew the relatives? I soon found out.
Ss. Simon and Jude Thaddeus Church, the 17th Century church in Dobra-Limanowa where my great grandparents were married in 1883.
Jennifer is another professional genealogist we assisted in genealogy tour in Poland. A year before, Mike Mierzwa (and his wife) traveled with us and they plan to return this year for even longer trip.
Here are some selected parts from Jennifer’s blog:
Buckle your seatbelts! We are traveling at the speed of my parents. Oh, did you think that speed might be slow? Not with my parents. They may physically move at a slower pace than me, but they travel with the purpose and intensity of a rocket trip to Mars.
We spent two weeks in Poland and Germany with a small day trip to Austria. During that time, we visited eight cities and numerous villages; researched our family in archives in Płock and Włocławek (Poland); spent time with six new (to me) cousins (ages 8 months to 95 years); crawled through overgrown cemeteries and the locations of long gone villages; and even did some sightseeing.
I struggled for years to unravel my Polish roots. Fortunately, I discovered PolishOrigins. Within just a few months, their genealogist, Zbigniew Stettner, provided me with a 30 page report and detailed email setting out details of my father’s family going back to his great-great-great grandparents and family! This based on the limited information I was able to provide being his date of birth, a letter from the Polish Red Cross with a few details and information regarding his parents’ names.
Our next step was to find living relatives. Not wanting to let too much more time lapse, I worked with PolishOrigins to organize a trip to Poland and Belarus (where my mother was born).
Well today is my last full day in Poland and I’m already sad to go. Despite the foreignness of the language, architecture, and customs, I feel very at home here. Perhaps it is my knowledge of Poland’s history and my familiarity with some aspects of its culture like food that makes me feel at home so far away. I had plans for dinner later just outside of the city center but that wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying one last run through Krakow. There is still so much I hadn’t seen yet that I ran around and got a lot in on this last day.
In the morning, I started off with a walk through the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz including the Old Jewish Cemetery. The wall of the cemetery is lined with fragments from the tombstones of Jews buried all over Krakow in cemeteries that were destroyed by the Germans.
The Old Jewish Cemetery, Kazimierz, Krakow, Poland.
Traveling usually fills me with joy and wonderment. I love exploring places and experiencing new things. Today was a little different. There would be no joy in today’s travel and I knew that last night. Today, I went to Auschwitz. Today was the day when I truly wondered how the words “human” and “humanity” could possibly be related. The evil that took place here lingers and the criminality that took so much from so many continues to draw millions to this place, yet thankfully, their crimes only inflict grief and draw tears today.
The famous gate at Auschwitz I that translates to “Work will set you free.” Our guide said that he has never found an example of a prisoner who was ever set free due to their dedication to work at this camp.