The Polish alphabet (alfabet polski) has 32 letters:
a ą b c ć d e ę f g h i j k l ł m
n ń o ó p r s ś t u w y z ź ż
plus these sounds represented by 2 letters
ch cz dz dź dż rz sz
A bit tricky looking, isn’t it? It has most of the letters of the English alphabet and a few extras with tails, dots or slashes. Q ,V and X are not used in Polish except in foreign words or as symbols. And don’t be fooled- even the letters that look like our good old English ones don’t necessarily sound the same, i.e ‘c’ has a ‘ts’ sound and ‘w’ is pronounced ‘v’.
And then the fun begins- speaking the language. The pronunciation is half the battle, and I’m still in heavily armed combat. The BBC has an excellent website if you fancy having a play around. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/polish/soap/alphabet.shtml
My story starts with an Aunt
When I first looked at her photograph, 5 years ago this month, I felt a jolt of recognition. It was not unlike looking at myself in the mirror, but maybe a few years down the line. I was already 57 but had never met her- had not even known that she was still alive. But it was due to her persistence, and refusal to believe that my Dad was dead, that we finally came together as a family.
Aunt Anna- I was named for her. I have a huge lump in my throat writing this as she died on 25.11.09. All those years of waiting and then so little time together- but we made it count. My lasting memories of her: regally enthroned at the table at the Hotel Wierzynek, looking every inch the Polish Royalty for which this hotel was designed; more simply pottering about at home, setting the table for food and chattering, chattering. Her hands were often painful but she used them expressively. I was so new in the language that it was all I could do to nod dumbly and smile.
Ciotka Anna (Aunt Anna) was bound to steal the show, but I have another surviving aunt. Ciotka Lusia (given name Otylia but always known to me as Lusia) lives in a beautifully modernised bungalow on part of the farm land originally owned by my grandfather. He and my grandmother had terribly hard lives and thinking about them makes my Dad sad. I never met them as he was taken from the farm by Germans at just 15 and never saw them again.
Ciotka Lusia is a joy. Always close to the land, she has a huge plot which until quite recently she managed to cultivate, growing all her own vegetables. Ciotka Lusia’s potatoes are legendary! Her daughter Teresa and granddaughter Edyta live with her and help to share the work. Edyta is a beautiful teenager now but when we first met she was a shy child, cuddling her rabbits.
Some of the original farm is intact but much of the land has been divided between the children and lovely family homes built on it. No doubt they will be the subject of a later post- it’s a big story. For now I need to conclude with the fact of my other aunts, Urszula, Krysia and Sabina, all of whom died before Dad could be reunited with them. So many family photos I have looked at.
The whole of Dad’s story (in brief) is told here: https://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/exploring-the-polish-connection/