Today started very slowly and painfully due to full and enthusiastic participation in vodka bottle passing tradition at the harvest festival. Thankfully, we had the good sense to have cousin Danuta’s daughter, Paulina, drive us to our hotel last night and she picked us back up in the morning so we could retrieve our car. Before we left I explained to Danuta that I wanted to walk down to the river and grab some rocks for Dad’s rock polishing machine from the river bed – and I’m glad I did.
Today is Sunday so it was obviously a good day day to visit the church in Debowiec where Wojciech Michnal and generations before and after him were baptized, attended mass, etc. We went to the 9am mass which was well attended. In fact, it was so crowded that we had to stand in back while dozens of others stood outside the church where audio of the mass is amplified over speakers outside. The Church is called St. Bartholomew’s and it was built relatively recently (1838-1848). The outside is plainer than most in this region but the inside is beautiful.
Exterior of St. Bartholomew in Debowiec (where Michnal family would have worshipped).
Today was much more low-key than the excitement that was an explosion of new knowledge regarding the Michnal side of my family from yesterday. While we compile the info (read: while Zen compiles the information) that we learned yesterday, we decided to do a little sight-seeing.
Podkarpackie, the region in which Zarzecze exists, is probably the most rural area of Poland. It is known for only a few things other than its natural beauty. First, the area was the center of the Polish petroleum industry as it is (or was) rich in oil and natural gas. Second, it is the area where Eastern Culture and the Eastern Orthodoxy meet Western Culture and Catholicism. Third, its border with Slovakia along the length of the Carpathian Mountains has its lowest pass in this entire mountain range meaning it has a long history as a trade route between Hungary and Poland (the good part) and a long history of raiders and major battles over this strategic position (the bad part).
My sleep timing is out of sorts and I woke up at 4am. I watched the sun rise from my hotel room while I did battle with a bee. There is no AC in the hotel and it is dreadfully hot in Poland now. It was near 90 degrees today and there is no relief in sight. Eventually I met Zen for breakfast. The meal consisted of cold cuts, coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs and a lemon coffee cake. This is more than I usually eat before 8pm at home.
We set off before nine to meet out local genealogist, Marek, at the parish administration office in Debowiec. The parishioners of Zarzecze, where Wojciech Michnal is from, belonged to this parish and any records regarding births, deaths, marriages, etc. would have been recorded here.
The good news is that the Catholic Church in Poland was very good at recording such things. The bad news is that the Germans, Russians, Swedes, Cassocks, Tartars, Turks, Ukrainians, Romanians, etc. have had an annoying habit of invading Poland and destroying everything in their paths. Thankfully, the parish priests in Debowiec are friendly toward those in my situation and are more than willing to share what has survived with us.
>On the way to the offices, we pass through the village of Zarzecze which is little more than an extension of Debowiec across the Wisloka River. We stopped for the obligatory picture with the Zarzecze sign:
Me as I enter the birthplace of my great grandfather Wojciech Michnal for the first time.
I booked the trip through PolishOrigins.com, a company that specializes in heritage-type trips for people who are exploring their Polish heritage and are researching their family trees. The company was started by Zenon Znamirowski, a Polish guy about 40 years old and he has been doing this for many years now. Although he has several other guides going at the same time with various groups, he personally took care of my trip acting as my driver, interpreter, and genealogy guide…as well as a great tour guide and travel companion in Poland generally. I had shared a lot of info with him that I already had discovered prior to making my final arrangements and we discussed my goals and interests extensively before for the trip. Armed with this knowledge he had visits set up at various parishes, museums, etc. before I even left.
We started out being picked up by Zbigniew and taken to his daughter’s rhythmic gymnastics International competition. There were girls there from Ukraine, United Kindgom, Poland and other countries. It was fun watching the girls perform.
After Zbigniew’s daughter was done he drove us back down to Market Square in Krakow. There was some shopping to be done.
It was a bit sad because there is more family to see and more ancestry to trace. Zbigniew will be coming back to the area after he drives us back to Krakow so that he can get the records for Julien’s mother. Hopefully the priest will have found the records we were looking to find. We were off to have breakfast across the street and then on to Krakow.
Arrived back at the hotel and now we wait for Ewa to come for our last tour. We walked from the hotel Schindler’s factory. Ewa gave us the tour. It was very interesting. We will have to watch Schindler’s List now.
Today we met for breakfast at the inn and then the 4 of us headed back to Sucha.
We were to meet at Halina’s house at 9 am. We headed to Parish of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The woman in the office had the book out and marked for Julien’s record. The woman was kind enough to gather some other books so that we could search for Julien’s younger siblings. From the books we were able to find the birth records for Julia and Jan. So now we have all the family births’ information. We did not find a marriage record for Julien’s parents but Zbigniew noticed a record for Julien’s father’s brother and so he had us take pictures and then we looked for the brother’s birth record. So from all the information collected we suspect that the Julien’s parents were married at his mother’s parish.
We met Zbigniew and headed to Sucha. He had contacted the relatives in Sucha and we were to meet them at 3:30 pm at their house. We were all a bit anxious and excited not knowing what to expect. The drive to Sucha was about 1.5 hours and the countryside was beautiful. We arrived in Sucha and first went to the civil office to try and obtain a copy of the birth record of Julien Pajak.
Zbigniew is very knowledgeable about obtaining records and can sweet talk clerks and priests into giving records that they supposedly do not have. The clerk did find the correct book and we were able to find Stanislaus Pajak and Julien Pajak. That left us to find the younger siblings.
After obtaining the records we went to Wadowice to see the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. We took the tour of his boyhood residence and Zbigniew was able to translate for us since the tour was in Polish. The museum was amazing. We also visited Christ the King church that was his boyhood parish. Then we were off to lunch and talk about what was to come. After lunch we headed back to Sucha and started our search for the home of Halina and Edward Wojcik. It was not hard to miss the house since Halina and Edward were standing in the street waiting for us. Then the fun began.