A is for Alphabet, and also for Aunts

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

Aunt Anna

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.

Dad, Anna and me

Dad, Anna and her son Adam, at home

Dad, Aunt Anna and grandson Lukasz, Hotel Wierzynek

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.

Dad and Aunt Lusia in her garden

Aunt Lusia, Teresa and Edyta

Edyta with one of the many 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/

20 comments

  1. What a lovely post Jo, you do look so much like your aunt… so many people have such poignant stories, your family is blessed to have you remembering and recording what you know. M

  2. Reblogged this on Piglet in Portugal and commented:
    Another interesting post for the letter A! Please pop over to restlessjo’s blog to comment.
    Don’t forget if you would like to join us everyone is welcome. Just registar your blog details in the comments sction below and I will add you to the blogroll and reblog some of your posts!

  3. How wonderful. I’m also from Polish descent and one of my dreams is to go back to meet some of my distant relatives. I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventure!

  4. Jo thank you so much for sharing this with us – it is an amazing story,I cannot even begin to imagine how your Dad would have been feeling meeting his sisters again. How wonderful though that you have gained such lovely aunts and a wider family in this way.
    Can’t wait to read more.

  5. Thanks for reading, everybody. So much has been bottled up in the last 5 years, it’s a pleasure to share. I hope to keep it a good mix of facts and memories, and I’m sure there will be more great stories like Mary’s.

  6. Lovely story. So sad that families were separated and lost during the wars. I´m now going to read your link about how you found your Polish family.

  7. Lovely and so wonderful that you got to meet your aunts.
    When I was young, my mother used to write to her cousin who first landed in Australia as a prisoner of WWII. He was in the italian army. The two had never met, letters would be sent and gifts sailed the oceans to each family. As children we had to write a couple of sentences to our cousins. Even after my Mother’s cousin died, and after my Mom’s death, I continued to write to Aunt Isabell. Two years ago, my friend Pat and I were heading to Australia and we spent a few days in Melbourne, not far from St. Albans, Victoria where they live. A tearful first meeting which felt more like a reunion. So many emotions because we were connected by my mother and Isabell’s husband. We sat around the dining room table, tears and laughter. Memories surfacing. Pictures were brought out and stories told. Questions answered about the families. A day, that will live with me forever. Last year my cousin Ann and her husband John made their way to the US and spent a few days in our pied a terre in NYC. We had a family BBQ where they got to meet my daughter, granddaughters, my husband, my 2 sisters, 1 niece and of course my friend Pat. Wish my brother could have joined us.
    We never thought in a million years that we would ever meet. La vita bella.
    So nice to hear about your family gatherings.

  8. What a lovely, moving post to start your Polish A-Z. Such a shame you didn’t get to meet all of your aunts but it’s wonderful that you are able to share their photos here and your memories of the ones that you did meet.

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