Polish family

Reminiscences from Poland, 2

If you read Reminiscenses from Poland, you know that I reached Bełchatów, almost without mishap.  Immediately I was enveloped in a warm Zawady welcome, in the place that Dad once called home.  His only remaining sister, Aunt Lusia, lives there still, daughters and grandchildren close at hand.  A long summer evening was spent in her garden, rabbits proliferating, and a cardboard box sheltering the tiniest kittens you ever saw.  I could feel my ankles being bitten, the pond and the sultry air an open invitation.  All in a good cause.  Her arm tucked through mine, we took a gentle turn beneath the apple trees.  Not long since she was in hospital, with family fearful that she would not recover.

As darkness fell and eyes began to droop, I was returned to cousin Jadzia’s house.  Halfway through my Polish adventure.  I had scoured timetables, and lost sleep over how I would get from Bełchatów to Kraków.  In the event, the problem was solved for me.  Jadzia’s daughter Ania and family were driving to the Tatry Mountains, south of Kraków, for a few days holiday.  If I didn’t mind being a bit squashed, they would take me with them and break the journey at Adam’s house.  I’ve never been one to mind a squeeze.  And so it was that me and 2 little girls, with 2 sunhats and a furry green frog, shared the back seat on a 4 hour journey.

We took the scenic route to avoid roadworks, but it was market day in Radomsko, and the car crawled beside the brimming stalls.  Once out in gently rolling countryside, Hubert slipped a CD in and we sang along to Polish nursery rhymes.  Two year old Nadia’s eyes sparkled as she sang, but all of a sudden they were filled with distress and she was being sick.  Swerving off the road into a field, operation clean up began.  “She’s never done that before” Hubert ruefully observed.  “She’s normally a good traveler”.  Five minutes later, in fresh clothes, she was beaming again, and munching a bag of crisps.

At Adam’s house all was suspiciously quiet.  No sign of the two little boys who lived there, but the playroom overflowed with toys.  A lovely respite for two little girls, who didn’t stop till every shelf and cupboard was empty and there was no space to play.  Out into the garden for a quick burn off energy then, fuelled with coffee and cake, Mum and Dad round them up.  Time to say goodbye….

I had a luxurious hour to myself before the onslaught.  Toys swiftly back on shelves, a peep at TV (Rafa was playing in the French Open) and I was sitting on the balcony, waiting.  Hot and mildly harrassed, Weronika and Marta shepherded two small boys through the gate.  Bedlam!  But in such a good way.  My turn to play with Marti, 18 months old and a happy soul, and his rather more cautious brother, Bartek, aged three.  Gradually the household filled as first Adam returned from work, then Wojtek, Weronika’s husband, and finally my lovely neice, Ula.  One member was missing.   Łukasz now lives with his girlfriend and I was promoted to his bedroom.  The buzz of chatter, and patter of slippered feet on the tiled floors, filled the evening as we ate and drank.  And finally, collapsed gratefully into bed.

Fluffy clouds greeted me through the skylight next morning.  Sniadanie (breakfast), and an outing to the park, followed by wolny czas (free time).  When I returned from the city, preparations were in full swing, the house full of bustle.  Adam’s pride and joy is his barbecue room, a design wonder of wood and folding glass panels.  The end wall is solid brick to enclose the grill and a smoker.  Marta’s pride and joy is her garden and the delicious meals she provides for her family.  Between them they conjure up many a feast.

That evening there was a guest of honour.  A gentleman to whom I will always be in debt.  Tomasz, Adam’s business partner, a warm and generous man and an impeccable English speaker, made the phone call to Dad that reunited him with his Polish family. (A night I will never forget, my tearful Dad hardly daring to believe his luck).  Taste is of supreme importance to Tomasz, and is one of the foundations of the bakery business.  Fond of wine and good company, with many tales to tell, you can imagine how our evening progressed.  Adam provided salmon and garlic bread from the barbecue and smoked sea bass to compliment Marta’s salads.  Wine flowed, and then Łukasz arrived, affectionate as ever.  He had spent the afternoon sleeping after an early shift.  The children played.  Sandpit, bubbles and swing, until it was time to haul them off to bed….

Last day…ostatni dzien… and one last trip into the city.  A tram ride home, stopping to collect a deep red rose bush for Marta, and a bag of cherries.  A whirl of emotions.  Adam, watering the garden after another hot one.  Marta, pottering beside him, relaxed after feeding everybody again.  The children at a birthday party in the neighbours’ garden next door, laughter and occasional tears drifting our way.  The evening settling around us.  Time for more goodbyes… we don’t know till when.  In halting Polish on the way to the airport, I try to tell Adam how very grateful I am.  His eyes twinkle as hugs me….

You must have met Cathy over at Wander.essence?  I’m adding this to her Prose challenge.  It’s the last of my Polish adventures… for now.

Piotrków Trybunalski

IMG_6661I’d like to spend just a little more time with my Zawady family, before returning you to the big city sights of Kraków.

We sat out, on my last night, under the stars and beside a roaring bonfire.  Myself and Jadzia, with husband Andrzej and sister, Ewa.  I was quiet, letting the conversation flow around me, while Jadzia and Andrzej took turns to stoke the fire, the kiełbasa bursting and sizzling on the grill.  My head was still full of the day’s excitement, with Meg in Łódź.

Broad smiles and hugs had greeted me when I pronounced the day ‘fantastyczny’ on my return.  Ewa was quick to produce a bottle of something soothing to rub on my black eye, which was rapidly developing after the previous night’s misadventure.  How is it possible to walk into a lighted porch lamp?  I’ve no idea, but I knew that an early start was intended next day.

If you look closely you’ll see Andrzej, sitting on the hammock.  For the past 50 years he has wanted a motor bike.  Finally, as he approaches retirement, Jadzia is considering letting him buy one.  And so we went to the Saturday morning market at Piotrków Trybunalski.  The last place it would have occurred to me to go looking for a bike, but sure enough, bikes there were.  And just about every other conceivable thing too.  We stowed our purchases (but not a bike- they were all too old!) in the car, and drove into the town centre.

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Seldom have I seen a sleepier Saturday morning than at Piotrków Trybunalski, yet the grandeur of the main square hints at its illustrious past. Medieval Piotrków was an important trading centre, and much later became the seat of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament.  In between times it was home to the Polish prince’s tribunals or law courts, including the Royal Tribunal, the highest court in Poland.  I knew little of this, as I strolled through the peaceful square.

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Under Austrian occupation in World War 1, Piotrków became a centre for Polish patriotic activity and a headquarters of the voluntary troops, the Polish Legions.  The town had a large Jewish population, and in October 1939 became the site of the first Jewish Ghetto of World War 11.  Fierce fighting took place but the town was subsequently occupied by the Germans for 6 years.  The Great Synagogue, listed as one of Poland’s most notable architectural buildings, was destroyed by the Nazis, but renovated after the war.

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As we wandered, Jadzia pointed out the school she used to go to, catching the early bus from Zawady each morning.  She was proud of the connection with Copernicus, and I was happy to be there with her.

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It was time to return to Zawady, but first a very swish motor bike shop, and a stop to collect cake.  Just one last coffee before we set off to meet Dad, for the journey south.  And then the hugs, goodbye.

Paula has a new approach to Thursday’s Special this week.  I think I might just squeeze this under the heading of Transience, don’t you?  Family meetings and former glory.

Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna

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Life is pretty busy for my Polish family, so when I was bundled into the car for a swift outing, between shifts of work, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Staying in rural Zawady, I seldom did.  Language so often seemed to get the better of me.

With interest I gazed out of the window as we passed through our local town, Bełchatów, and soon after that turned down a path signed Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna.  I know!  Not the easiest place name you ever saw.  Dad insists that Polish is simple.  You just spell out each letter, slowly. Mystified, I followed, as we left the car in woodland parking.  A complex of buildings sat off to one side, and a gate led to a small animal farm and stables.

My cousin, Jadwiga, smilingly explained that she sometimes comes here to ride, and pointed out her favourite horse.  It was dimly lit in the stables, so I can’t show him to you.  Soon though we were out in bright sunlight, beside a swiftly flowing canal and heading towards a vast expanse of water.

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Nestled in amongst the trees were a series of tall, green Toblerone-shaped chalets, several of them occupied.  A few youngsters lounged on the steps, idling the day away.  It felt a little like ‘Center Parcs’ and I realised that it was, in fact, a sports and recreation centre.  In Summer there would be an admission charge, but in low season it was free to wander, and we did.

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It was wonderfully peaceful, with just the odd angler, casting a line.  Fishing competitions are held here sometimes, and in high season there are kayaks and pedaloes for hire.  A small child, well-wrapped up despite the warm temperatures, was digging in the sand on the man made beach. Her Dad hovered indulgently nearby.  Looking out across the lake at a certain point it becomes impossible not to see what everyone takes for granted around here.  Smoke rising from the chimneys of the power station that brought employment to this area. A blot on the landscape.

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It’s rather sad, isn’t it?  But no-one seems to mind.  Jadzia had happy memories of distant summers, spent splashing around in those waters.  And we had no time to linger.  Her husband was off to work- at the power station, of course.

Jo’s Monday walk : Meeting Meg

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If ever you need a sweet-natured soul to have a stroll with- or better still, a hug or five and a hoot of laughter- I have a peerless recommendation for you.  I’m a little hesitant in writing this post because I’m not sure that I can do the lady full justice.  If you saw Meg’s post, ul Piotrkowska with Jo, you’ll know that she has already done my job for me.  And that is very typical of Meg.  Swift to offer the hand of friendship, she turned my day in the city of Łódź into something quite extraordinary.

First, let me give you a little background.  The key to Meg’s being in Poland is her wnuki, her grandchildren.( pronounced f-nooki, it’s another of those tricky Polish words)  How many people do you know who would leave their beloved home (think ‘good for the soul’ quiet beaches, and Australian flora and fauna, all photographed by Meg in exquisite detail) to take up residence in Poland’s capital city, Warsaw, for a year?  To be near those children.  Speaking almost no Polish, and reduced, like myself, to a perplexed frown as conversations roll past her, Meg then agrees to meet with an English lady in an unknown city.  To make it easier for that lady, she books 3 nights in the city, alone, almost immediately after a family trip to the Polish lakes.

And now for my part.  I know all too well the frustrations of a lack of ability to communicate.  Occasionally I have thought that ‘signing’ would be a better method than trying to speak the Polish language.  I get by well on hugs and smiles within the family but that doesn’t go down so well with strangers.  Understandably the family are not keen to let this nodding, smiling person go wandering in a big city, where few of them are keen to venture themselves.  How can they know that it is in my nature to wander?  That I thrive on it.  I have even done a little research and know how to get to Łódź.   And beyond that, I will have Meg!

It is with reluctance but great patience that Andrzej accompanies me to the bus stop, and we wait and wait.  When I am almost convinced that it will not arrive, despite his phone call to the bus company and being told ‘Będzie’- ‘it will come’, a small white minibus hoves into view.  Can you imagine the bubble of excitement inside me as the lush green of Springtime Poland slides past my window?

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Enough!  The audience awaits.  I step off the bus almost into her arms and we make it to a corner cafe for much needed kawa (coffee, of course). And there I discover just how delightful a companion I am to have for my day of freedom.  The cafe is situated on a corner of Poland’s longest street, Ulica Piotrkowska.  With unfailing lack of sense of direction I point to the ‘top end’ of the street and suggest that we head that way.  Meg smiles, and points the other way.  Armed with a map from the TI and directions on how to find the bus stop from which I must later leave the city, cameras in hand and huge grins on our faces, we begin to walk.

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As Meg has pointed out in her beautiful post, the architecture in Łódź is ravishing.  There really is something for everyone, whether you favor shabby or chique.  My tendency is always to beauty and elegance, but I can sometimes be won over by the forlorn and unloved.  We are each other’s eyes, and at times it’s hard to concentrate, as smiles and snippets of conversation bob back and forth.  I have never taken photographs in tandem like this, and it is a remarkable experience.  Sometimes I pause to see what Meg has focused on, and later I realise that she was doing the same with me.  How very wonderful to find someone who understands the joy of just being there.

Part of the reassurance I tried to give my Polish family was that I would not be straying far from Ulica Piotrkowska, and there truly was little need to. Our first landmark is Plac Wolnosci, where I dance in delight at the passing trams.  Meg finds this funny.  There is every kind of transport along this street, but trams always bring a smile to my lips.

Looking up, past a rusty old gate, cavorting weasels (or maybe rats?) catch my eye, but I have my sights on Palac Poznanskiego, Museum of the History of Łódź.  Time is precious and the weather superb so, having found our target, we agree to bypass it in favour of a leafy green space.  Meg takes huge pleasure in the soft shadows and gently waving trees.  My best efforts for Jude are rather pathetic, and I start to giggle.

We are at the very top of Piotrkowska, and turn to head back.  On a corner of Plac Wolnosci, the church of Zesłania Ducha Świętego is bathed in bright sunlight.  The door is ajar, and we enter quietly.  There are only a couple of people knelt in silent worship and I manage a few shots, trying hard not to be intrusive.  ‘Are you any good at mosaics?’ asks Meg.  I shrug and try.

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Time to decide where to eat.  There are plenty of choices and we are agreed that an outdoor table will do nicely.  Ordering from the board outside our restaurant, I manage to confuse the waitress.  Or does she confuse me?  Soup, and then nalesniki  (pancakes) with spinach, appear in rapid succession.  I decide to ask again for some wine, and am greatly relieved when it arrives.

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Many confidences were exchanged before we continued along this engaging street.  Rubinstein with his piano vied for our attention with local born poet, Julian Tuwim.  Whimsy there was aplenty, and some quite enchanting sculptures of children.

Nifty little archways and passages lead off Piotrkowska, some of them quite irresistible.  Most lead to restaurants and quiet courtyards, but the art gallery and cafe Surindustrialle was one of our best finds.  Metal art from industrial waste.  Take a look at the website and you’ll see what I mean.

I have so many more photos that I could show you, but perhaps you are getting weary.  Meg showcases many of them brilliantly so, if you haven’t already paid a visit, I hope that you will do so.  One good thing about this walk- it’s almost impossible to get lost.  But reaching the end of Ulica Piotrkowska is another matter altogether.  I don’t know if we got even halfway along its 4.9km.

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All too soon it was time to look for the bus stop that would take me back to the family.  A landmark for Meg in finding her way around the city, the main tram station was chiefly a source of happiness for me.  I had glimpsed it, with curiosity, from my bus window on the way into Łódź.  Just look!

A block further south and our grand street was starting to look a little more humble. A colossal renovation project, it’s hard to know when it will be finished.  But our time together was almost at an end.  The bus stop was found too quickly and we looked for somewhere to conclude our meeting. Not a cafe in sight, we subsided onto the bench and continued to talk.  There was so much to ask… so much to say!  But 45 minutes later the bus revved its engine and I reluctantly got on board.  One last hug and a wave and Meg was gone.  I was both exhilarated and bereft!

I realise that this walk is of a far more personal nature than usual, but I wanted it to be a tribute to a very special lady.  I do hope you enjoyed your walk with ‘us’, and I very much hope that she and I will meet again someday.

Should you be tempted by what you’ve seen, you will find the Tourist Information website in Łódź a valuable source of information.

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Thank you for your patience everybody.  Often I visited your blogs whilst sitting on the sofa, as Dad and my cousins watched TV, but my Smartphone has its limits (or the truthful version- I do!)  ‘Normal service’ should be resumed now.  Welcome to my walks!  Join in if you like.  The details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.  Time for a cuppa, isn’t it?

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It always tickles me how many of our place names are the same- Monteith St. for example. Thanks, Anabel!

Toronto: an urban walk

There’s no getting away from it- Susan is a lady after my own heart :

Just for the shell of it

Classical Glass

Yvette always supplies interesting people to compliment her doors (and walks) :

Thursday Doors (walk-ing)

I’m inclined to forget that Becky has an English blog.  Come along with me and learn all about ‘navigations’ :

A lovely English stroll for a Monday

I have done this walk to the Algarve’s Fonte da Mesquita but, unlike Becky, I didn’t see the orchids.  Sad face! :

A happy case of ‘orchidelirium’ on our walk to the spring!

Sue has a warm heart and is a great espouser of good causes, but she likes a bit of fun too!

Where Do Beavers Live?

Nothing I like better than a watery walk!  Geoff chucks in a chateau or two and I’m happy :

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And some London buildings, including lovely St. Bride’s :

H is for Hawksmoor and his boss….

Drake takes us ‘home’ to beautiful Samsø in Denmark :

Here comes the sun

We’re biking again in California, but you can get off to check out the neighbourhood :

My weekly ramble- From my front door

A hint of mystery next and a great yarn, told in Tish’s best raconteur mode :

The Tale of a Hidden House that once hid a King 

And while we’re storytelling, I was delighted to have the ‘other’ Sue for company this week :

Of castles, a dancer, dragon’s teeth and tunnels…

Denzil has found us some green and pleasant land that isn’t England :

Walking in the Voerstreek

And Gilly, England at its finest :

Lanhydrock, a National Trust Stroll

That’s it for another week!  Many thanks to all of you for your support and for walking with me.  I hope that this week brings you much pleasure.

Six word Saturday

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Niestety, mówię tylko troche po polsku

“Unfortunately, I speak only a little Polish” but the language of cake is universal.  Staying in the home of a baker could be ruination for the figure, so it’s probably as well I came home when I did.  Chmurka malinowa (raspberries and meringue) was my undoing.  Sadly, after 2 weeks in Poland I was just starting to get my head around the language and have the confidence to try to speak it.

The photos above are from my cousin Adam’s newest shop, and Dad is there with the family, waiting to sample ciastko- cake. Something which he is extremely good at.  Must be a family trait!  The last is taken through the shop window.  My lovely niece Ula has just finished work for the day.

One of my weeks was spent with family in Central Poland, where feeding one week old ducklings- kaczki– was part of the entertainment.  I was also lucky enough to meet up with Meg in the city of Łódź.  Such joy that gave me.  I’ll be taking her along on my Monday walk next week.  Come with us, but don’t expect to get a word in, will you?

Meanwhile, have a great weekend!  Pop in on Cate if you have six words you want to share.

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Six word Saturday

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High seas and a happy family!

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Something that I seem to have in common with my Polish family is a love for the sea.  My cousin Grażyna and husband, Jarek, have their own boat on the Norfolk Broads.  Remember Tilting at Windmills?  Mostly smooth sailing, but when my uncle Włodek came to England for the first time, with his lovely lady, Weronika, they were keen to stroll beside the bracing North Sea.  The fact that it was a cool, heavily overcast day did not deter them, so long as the rain kept off.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the above photos were taken in black and white.  Not so!  With whoops of delight we watched the sea pitch and twirl, as it put on a grand display, just for us.  It was spellbinding!

The statue in the square seemed to be vainly imploring the waves.  Somewhere warm and dry was called for and the Museum of Hartlepool, with its maritime theme, fitted the bill perfectly.  An exhibition dedicated to the bombardment of Hartlepool in 1914, and featuring the iconic poppies, was a welcome bonus, as was the gaslit cafe on the paddle steamer PSS Wingfield Castle.

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Three German warships attacked our town on the morning of December 16th, 1914.  The attack left 130 people dead and more than 500 injured.

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It was almost closing time so, after kawa and herbata, we trooped happily back to ours for food.

That was my week.  How about yours?  Have you got six words to share with Cate at Show My Face?  I’ll be back on Monday, with a different kind of watery walk.  Hope to see you then.  Have a good weekend!

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Six word Saturday

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A few random images of Poland

The spires of the Mariacki Church will always say Krakow to me

The spires of the Mariacki Church will always spell Krakow to me

Sunflower heads on the market

Sunflower heads on the market

A gallery from Ogrod Botanyczny (the Botanic Gardens) for Jude– click any photo for a close-up

An adorable ball of fluff!

An adorable ball of fluff!

And a few more wedding memories

Ending with cake, of course!

Ending with cake, of course!

I expect you can see, we had a good time in Poland!  If you missed The joy of a wedding you might want to take a closer look at the celebrations.  I will be rounding off my Polish excitement with a monastery in my Monday walks.  Till then, have a great weekend, and don’t forget to pop in on Cate with your six words.

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