4. An Aussie trying to find her Polish Roots.

My research into the Lagiewczyk family showed that the family had lived in Brzeski for many generations. As mentioned earlier, I only ever knew one grandparent and that was my mother’s mother, Babcia. When my mother and I went to Poland when I was 8 years old, we based ourselves at my Babcia’s house and spent most of our three month holiday living in her house. The memory of my time there and of her is still quite vivid. She still farmed the enormous amounts of land the family held way into her old age but she lived very frugally. No running water – she had a well for her water needs. No electricity – she used candles and lanterns for light and a wood burning stove for cooking. A simple but satisfying life.

Babcia’s house in 1994.

My Grandparents, their son Jozef and wife Janina outside the house now derelict after her death in 1985. Circa 1960.

My mother, Leokadia was the eldest child and had a sister Rozalia and a brother Jozef who had two daughters, Irena and Dorota who are very close to my age and we had corresponded over the years.

Irena was now living on the land where my Babcia had lived as she had inherited it after my Babcia died due to being the eldest grandchild living in Poland. Irena has torn down the old family house which apparently had been moved from another location, brick by brick, when my grandparent’s married in 1921. She has now built a lovely home facing the fields where my grandparent’s worked. The old well is still standing there, with a lovely garden built around it.

My Babcia and my sister Grace at Babcia’s well. Circa 1975.

Babcia’s well in 2010.

Irena had been very close to my Babcia and so she had quite a lot of information to share with me, including the land where she now lived. Zenon and I found this information very useful when we spent a day at the Sieradz Archives looking through archival information such as wills and probates. Luck was again on our side and we found some very interesting probate records which gave us information about land my grandparents had inherited. Unfortunately we were not allowed to photograph the documents. The Archives had to photograph them and they sent them to me at my hotel a few days later on a CD. The amount they charged me was obscene and Zenon did argue the price with them, but I figured that as I had come a long way to find these papers, I would have to pay the price.

These documents were full of information but I found it difficult to read and understand. On my return home, I emailed them to Zenon who found a retired Polish literature Professor who was happy to transcribe them into easy-to-read Polish and again into English. Another great service that Zenon was only too happy to provide for me.

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Footnote

Back home I am now able to reflect on my research trip and know that I would never have been able to find out all that I did, without the help and experience of Zenon. He was worth every dollar (or zloty) I paid to him. His knowledge of history is fantastic and helped me to understand a lot more, especially the plights of the Polish people during WWII and the Communist regime. His language skills of English, Polish and Russian was brilliant and certainly helped us out when researching parish registers, wills, probates and land records. His past experience in dealing with Priests, Registry and Archive staff proved to be invaluable when approaching these people. My sister and I, together with other family members in Poland, enjoyed his company and found him to be a warm, gentle and patient man who really enjoys helping other people find their family roots.

Zenon was hired by me to help me with my research, but I feel that in the short four days we spent together, we have forged a lasting friendship as well.

Basia

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One Response to “4. An Aussie trying to find her Polish Roots.”

  1. Shellie says:

    Basia,
    What a wonderful story of your trip to Poland! I enjoyed every minute, especially the before and after photos! Thank you for sharing your story with us. Every story makes our lives much richer and gives us hope that we too will find more gems among the genealogical information that we search through to find our ancestors. Best of luck to you! Shellie (Polish Origins member since 2008)

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