Thursday, December 01, 2005

November 25-27, 2005 - Luke's trip to Poland

Hello folks, Luke here. Here goes my 1st attempt at the blog!

Last week, was pretty much just another week. Worked, hit the pub for a Guinness and watched T.V.

MY workweek was short due to the fact I was flying to Poland on Friday (25th). I went to visit the family and get our winter coats and other clothes we left there (we left 3 suitcases of clothes at my grandparents at the beginning of the trip).
It is really nice to be able to go to Poland for the weekend, never in my life did I think I would be so close and that it would be so cheap. The flight both ways cost me €70 and with taxes (taxes on flights are crazy) it came out to €120, but over all still cheap!
This was also the 1st weekend Jess and I spent apart in at last 6months. (FREEDOM!!!) Just kidding Honey.

My flight was at 7:30am so I got up at 4:30am, I ordered a cab for 5:30am and was at the airport by 6:00am. I didn’t have any bags there was no check in just straight to the gate. The flight was delayed leaving Dublin due to the ½ inch of wet and melting snow that fell the night before…pretty amusing. Planes in Canada take off and land all winter but they get a little snow here and it gives them problems. Anyway…I got to Poland at 11:40am their time (Ireland is 1hr back) and Tarja (my cousin from Amsterdam) was waiting there for me with Marcin (my other cousin). Tarja decided to come last minute since she can’t make it to Poland for the holidays.
As we were landing I took some pictures (attached) I couldn’t believe how much snow they had and how grey and depressing Warszawa looked.

Tarja arrived in Warszawa at 9:30am and we decided she would just wait at the airport for me, rather then having Marcin make 2 trips. It’s about a 20min ride from the airport to my grandparents but Marcin makes it in 10. Polish drivers are NUTS!
Once we got to my grandparents it was time for lunch, but the Polish don’t really do lunch. They do 2 dinners. So there was dill soup, really good roast beef, pyzy (dumplings), salad and breaded fish for Tarja (she doesn’t eat meat). All home made, all REALLY TASTY. After we ate I needed to do some shopping since 1 € is 4 Zloty, I figured might as well since its so cheap. Marcin drove us to Arcadia, one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe, and we bummed around for about an hour or so. I bought a carton of smokes (€17 as apposed to here €75), bought myself the new Eric Clapton CD I had been waiting to hear since August…it sucks! Thank God he can still play guitar. Bought some Polish movies, deodorant and bought Jess a Pashmina scarf.

We made plans earlier to go out with Marcin later that night, and Tarja was pretty tired (so was I actually) so we decided to head back to the house and nap. Once we got back my Aunt Joasia was there (just like always, when ever I am in Poland she comes to see me) and we obviously had to eat again since it had been 2 hrs since our last meal. We chatted with my Aunt (well I translated) for a bit and once she left Tarja went for a nap and I decided to suck it up and stay up and just talk to my grandparents. I cracked open a Zywiec (best Polish beer) and sat for a bout 2 hrs just chatting away. It was nice. Around 7:00pm I woke Tarja up and we slowly made our way to Marcin’s parents house, where Rafal (my other cousin) was going to meet us with his wife. Well, Rafal got sick and lives about 30min out of the city so he didn’t come. We chatted and sat around at my Aunt and Uncle’s place till about 11:30pm and finally decided to go out for at least one pint. We drove around for a bit, near the older, nicer part of Warszawa looking for a place. Most were either packed or we were underdressed for, so we decided to just go to a Pub/Restaurant type place. We went to Ufiszera, where Jess and I went last time we were there. It was pretty empty so seating wasn’t a problem. I can’t drink normal beer anymore (lager) I get headaches, pretty odd. I noticed they had Guinness and Kilkenny, but how good can a Guinness be compared to Ireland? Marcin said that I would be better off with Kilkenny, so I got that. And what does Marcin do, he orders a Guinness. Tarja ordered a big Pilsner and was shocked by the size of it. We forgot to tell her that Poland is not like Amsterdam with their tiny beers. She ended up getting a litre and once she got half way through it, she said wow that’s good; I’ll have another one.
I eventually tried Marcin’s Guinness and WOW it was good. Ireland style, no joke! So I ordered one. By the way, in that place you get Guinness in 330ml, 500ml or 1ltr.
After a pint we all got hungry so Dagmara (Marcin’s wife) ordered bread with smalec (smalec is lard, yes lard) and its sooooooooo good.
We left the pub around 2am or so and Tarja and I took a cab back to my grandparents.

We woke up at 8am on Saturday, giving us enough time to eat a breakfast, have a coffee and smoke, shower and meet Marcin and Dagmara downtown. Before coming to Poland, Marcin sent me an email saying how he was driving by “our” (family) house last month and noticed that the original plaque with the address and our great grandfathers name was still there. We decided that really that belongs to us and we want it, so I said once I get to Poland we should go there and take it.

Little background on the house (pictures attached): It is in a small town (it became a town in the last 5 yrs maybe - it used to be a village) called Lochow. It was build by our great grandfather (Andrzej Kubis) pre WWII. My grandmother and her siblings were born there, my uncle (Tarja’s dad) was born there and the whole family used to go up there every summer for 2 months. As soon as school would end the next day Marcin, Rafal, Wojtek and I would be up there with our parents, just the same as our parents went up there with their parents. So lots of years and years of family fun and history in that house. We would have the best time there, walking around the forest, playing war games, playing Robin Hood, swimming in Liwiec (the creek) doing what kids do. The whole property is pretty big, there is the main 3-bedroom house with a kitchen, and across the yard there is the outhouse, chicken coop, storage, and summer kitchen. There were 2 smaller gardens (veggies and fruit) in the yard, and the yard in the front of the house had apple trees, cherry trees and other fruit plants. I haven’t seen that house in about 18-20 years give or take. I don’t even remember the last time I was there, but I do have fond memories of being there. After our great grandmother died in 1991 the house got sold for peanuts and the guy who bought it didn’t do anything to it, and recently he just sold it to someone else and the new owner hasn’t done much except put a new gate in the front, covered the well, cut some apple and cherry trees down, and lets his son use it as a party place, so there are beer cans all over the yard. Over all the house is slowly falling apart, but man it must have been built really well if its been standing for the last 65 years or so. And its all made from wood. Good job great grandpa!

Growing up in that house we heard lots of stories and on the drive there Marcin and I started to reminisce. (I am sure my mom knows more and could correct me on some details).
We remembered the house being haunted…haha who believes in that? We remembered that great grandpa used to hide couple of Jews in the cellar passage (as I call it) it was a tunnel which originally went from the main house kitchen across the yard. We remembered something about a German soldier being buried by great grand pa in front of the yard…true or just over exaggerated tales that get different over the generations? Well if the house wasn’t haunted why would the whole village help my family lift the house with wooden planks and move it back 20 feet? Probably because once they moved the house and started to dig down, they found that the house was built on an old cemetery form WWI. I checked with grandma and she told me more examples of why it was haunted. So that one is true.
Buried German soldier, well a buried German yes, soldier we are not sure about!
The tunnel I know is true cause I used to hide in it when we played hide and seek. But I think it was eventually filled because I never remember going across the yard.
So as you can see, to me, being older now, that house and the memories are special.

Ok so the drive to Lochow was about an hour. We hit the cemetery first (picture attached). We couldn’t remember where the grave was, but we remembered it was “designed” by great grand pa, and well it’s the biggest and tallest in the whole cemetery haha. So we found it easily! Our great grand parents are buried there along with our great great grandmother and great uncle (who was murdered/robbed on the way to Lochow from the army. He was stabbed 17 times in the back of the head and thrown on the train). So it is a big grave. We cleaned up a little and left.
Next we made a stop at Liwiec, the creek we used to swim in (pictures attached).
Finally we made our way to the house. As we were driving up Marcin said he had trouble recognizing it last month when he was there, and bet me I wouldn’t find it. YA OK! I found it just fine. It looks exactly the same only the new gate in the front throws you off. Same paint, same everything.

We got out and took pictures, walked around it etc. We figured we would 1st knock on the house and see if maybe the owner was there and ask him for the plaque. As we were about to do that the next-door neighbour, still living there recognized us and told us no one was there, and barely any one comes here anyway. It was nice to see him and he asked if we would stick around for a bit so he could call his wife and daughter and tell them to come home as they would be happy to see us too. So we decided to leave the plaque for now and take a walk in the forest and we’d be back in half hour.

We took a walk in the forest, so many memories of playing there came back. Mind you this was the 1st time I was in that forest at minus 5 and snowing. As cold and wet as it was the fresh air, the pine smell, the peacefulness was great. I could see that Marcin missed it too. And seeing the house and being in the forest where her dad grew up I noticed it was pretty emotional for Tarja as well.

Marcin and I always take the piss out of Dagmara cause she is from a small village, born and raised. She came to Warszawa for school. So we always say we know better cause we’re from the city, we’re not village people. Its pretty funny actually. But being in the forest and talking she said “all you guys are is just city boys with a village persons heart and soul”. In return I said, “deep down inside we are village people, but we are educated village people from the city”. That got her going again…haha.

We were brought up there, milking cows, picking mushrooms, blueberries for pies, collecting wood/charcoal for fires, drinking well water, taking care of the chickens, etc so we are village people at heart.

After freezing our arses off we decide to head back. As we were walking back the neighbour (Aunt Wanda as we called her), was waiting at the gate. Hugs all around. She invited us in for a cup of tea to warm up, which sounded good and plus you can’t say no. So a Polish person that hasn’t seen you in years inviting you for a cup of tea is really a meal! We had some good smoked bacon with home made dill pickles, pate and other cold cuts and fresh bread. I ate the whole thing of pate. Damn it was good. Since Tarja doesn’t eat meat, she ate the pickles…it must suck being a vegetarian in Poland. Anyway, it was really nice to sit there and catch up and reminisce some more. She remembers us as little kids, so it was funny to hear some stories. As we were finishing our tea we mentioned the plaque dilemma to her. She agreed its ours and we should have it. So since she is the only original neighbour still living on that street (more like a foot path) she authorized us to take it down. That was good enough for me! She said the guy who owns the house wouldn’t mind any way and he won’t even notice that’s its missing. So her husband gave us a ladder and a hammer and I went at it. We hopped the fence (Marcin ripped his pants in the process on a old nail, city boy!) And by the time he was over the fence I was already was on the other side with the climbing the latter. The plaque was on hanging on there with 2 nails, but man was it ever hanging on. Took me about 5 minutes to get it off. I had to be careful too, cause if I pulled the nail sideways the wood started to chip and I didn’t want the roof or something to fall down…that would go over really well. But I got it!
We climbed back over and thanked them for the ladder. They invited us back in the summer, which I think we all want to do! Aunt Wanda said if we come we can pick some blueberries and she would make us those delicious blueberry pastries she used to. Great people, always like family. So hugs goodbye and we told him if he sees the owner to ask him what the selling price is. I would love to buy it, especially before the Euro comes in. It would be nice to have it to go back to in the summers. Needs lots of work, but even camping (like we used to) would be great. Well it’s a thought.

When we got back to Warszawa we were exhausted but my Godmother was there waiting for me so we chatted and yes, ate again. After that (about 2 hrs later) Tarja and I got on the 5:00pm bus and headed to my other grandparents house. We were going to go for about 2 hours but we ended up staying until around 11pm. Fun as always, couple of shots of Vodka with grandpa, more food, just nice to see everyone again. Tarja got drunk on the Vodka and she had a rough morning and flight the next day. I was up the next day to figure out how to pack, there were the 3 suitcases already and now I had to fit gifts and food with me. Oh ya remember how I was going to Poland to pick up our winter coats well they were not there, we thought we packed them and left them at my grandparents but looks like we left them in Canada. Haha. Oh well its not that cold here. So I packed sausages, candy, cookies, cabbage rolls for Jess, meat…I packed what I could. Marcin’s dad drove me to the airport and later he would drive Tarja. Her flight left at 4:00pm mine left at 12:20pm.
The flight back to Dublin was quick. We arrived 40 minutes ahead of schedule, and I took a cab home. It was good to be home. No grey skies, no snow, on the plus side, sunshine, and Jess waiting.
Good trip and pretty emotional at times. Jess and I are planning to go there in the New Year as well.

Here as some cool/historical sites about my home town. Enjoy!

Warszawa Website - Po Polsku - In English

Warszawa in 2020 (That city is going to be great!)

Recently (August) we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Warszawa Uprising.

Historical Sites of Jewish Warszawa - Po Polsku - In English



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome pics from Poland man! Hope you had a great time! Too bad you didn't take the opportunity to wear the GERS shirt! SInce you weren't in Dublin! *LOL*


9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice shot's Luke, I hope Jess got my letter.
Miss you guys
Love Em

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write like Jess, Luke -interesting to read. It's nice Poland is so close and easy to get to.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Ian Ethier said...

Here beer, there beer, everywhere beer, beer.


7:26 PM  

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