Where Do You Come From
Where are your roots? Do you know how you got to this place you live in?
A Day to Remember, a Lifetime to get here
Several years ago I took an incredible journey. This journey was one that I never thought I would take as every time I wanted to something always came up, I guess those were just not the right times. So when my Cousin's son Tjorven suggested we go together when I next visit his family in Belgium, I welcomed the opportunity as he and I share a beautiful bond, he is also for me like a son and as I have told him many times over the years since he was a very young boy that I certainly would adopt him tomorrow. I live close to Toronto in Canada and Tjorven lives in a beautiful village called Maasmechlen in Belgium, which is very close to the beautiful Medieval City of Maastricht in The Netherlands. He paid for my trip to Poland which came as a beautiful unexpected gift and surprise to me for which I shall be eternally grateful.
My Father and Tjorven's Grandfather who was one of two favorite Uncles growing up, were first cousins, they were raised in the same apartment building where their families lived for generations and whose families also worked in the glass and crystal factories in a town called Krosno, Poland. The Second World War tore their families apart and they spread to different parts of Europe to resettle and then some family members moved around the world. When Polish people and other Eastern Europeans fled from their homes with nothing but usually their most valuable possessions because there was no time to pack and transfer things to a new location as many did not know they would be leaving and had no forwarding address, they were known as traitors and were left as displaced people and refuges seeking asylum in a country that would accept them and no different that the Former Yugoslavian, Rwandan, Cuban, and other groups of people or Syrian refugees of today who want a better life for themselves and families, as no one wants to live that way and no person or child should have to. My Father and his Parents, Brothers and Sister as well my Mother and her Parents and Sisters chose England to call home at that time, my Uncle chose Belgium, others chose Germany, France after the war and some Canada and South America.
Tjorven and I both had never been to Krosno, we had only ever listened to stories of how my Dad and Tjorvens grandfather had played together, how they would go visit each other's families on the various floors of the apartment building where they lived. You all know if you listened to stories from your own parents and grandparents how they used to walk to school and walk miles to and from the grocery store, well as a kid it does seem like miles right?. My Father would tell me of how they would go for an entire day and go skiing and the stories he would tell of what these two and their other cousins got up to were fascinating to me but when I got up to similar things I would get told off, funny how that worked. My Father was very ill the last few years of his life and I would sit with him and he would reminisce about his youth and his birth country Poland. He and my Mother went back to Poland only once after the war because first of all they could not go back during the communist regime and second of all they could not afford to go as they had four children to raise and their priority was always that we children have a good education. So when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary I arranged for them both to go back to Poland. They had a wonderful experience but my Mother was not able to go to the town where she grew up in, as it was no longer there, also it is now part of the Ukraine and I know that the memories would have been too much for her to revisit that part of her life and that is a story for another day.
So off we went and our flight took us to visit our Aunt first in Katowice. This city is an older mining city in Poland and is undergoing a face lift as much of Poland is now. Our Cousin Wojchiech took us on a road trip to Krosno and we went there and back in a day and it was a long day. The drive was so beautiful though as we took the Highway that bi passed major cities and then through the country side and side roads to get to the town of Krosno. I got out of the car and I was overwhelmed, that I was here, in this beautiful place where my father, his father and his father and so on had walked and lived. There was a gorgeous Market Square and the town has these beautiful old streets. The first thing I noticed was the smell of the fresh air, the clean streets, no garbage laying around, the pride that people took in preserving this beautiful town, churches and old architecture. We came here on a mission and we had the name of where we had to go, we had learned the name of the area we were looking for from our aunt, the district that they all grew up in, where we would find the Glass Factory and the apartment building locations we wanted to see. So as we were walking we saw a sign for the Glass Museum and as our families worked in the Glass and crystal factories we wanted to go in and check it out. We were met by a lovely young woman who gave us a lowdown of the Museum and she asked us what bought us here and we told her where we had come from and why. She was so surprised when we told her our last names in conversation and it turned out that that we were related because she had married one of our cousins cousin, you know how that goes that when you talk to someone long enough you will see that your related…She actually knew my Fathers Family but most of them had passed away over the years or did not live in the immediate area. We took our time to look at pieces that were produced in the glass factory that we were headed for. When leaving we asked if she could give us directions to the district we were in search of. She said what a coincidence it was that we came now as the apartment building was being torn down for a new one to be erected and the glass factory where our families had worked was scheduled to be demolished any day…. so we drove to this place and we parked the car and we walked over to where the glass factory stood. Just like a factory but it was a factory where generations of our family had worked and our family also had owned. A security guard came to talk to us and e told us what we already knew, that this place was going to be demolished any day now. We asked him for directions and he showed us a path to follow and it would take us directly to the Apartment buildings. So off we went again and we walked up some old stairs carved into stone where you could see the steps were worn out by many taking this route over the years, through a small wooded area that was so peaceful and green you could smell the earth and old trees. Then out of nowhere there were several apartment buildings not high rise buildings just six floor units and we were to learn form an older gentleman who lived there sitting in the afternoon sun on a bench, that the one we were looking for had been torn down and a new one already replaced it. So we three walked around in silence and each of us with our own thoughts as we had all three of us heard some wonderful stories about this place in a different time and world from our parents and grandparents…We left, headed back through the woods and slowly each of us ahead of each other on the path taking our time came back to the steps that bought us here and I got overwhelmed with tears and so did my cousins, we all looked at each other we were feeling so moved by this moment. I know we were so grateful that something so powerful had guided us three to this place this day as in just a few short days there would be no trace of the glass factory or the apartments. We each stood for a moment again with our thoughts mine were of my dad and all the stories he had ever told me of this place and I said a prayer of gratitude for my dad and all who had come before me and for this day and moment that I would carry in my heart for ever. We got back into the car and we decided we wanted to go into the church that we knew all our families had attended for generations. This church I recognized as we had pictures in our home of it when I was growing up. A glorious church, a beautiful dome you can see from a distance, with paintings everywhere, on the ceiling of the dome were magnificent paintings, a miniature of the Sistine chapel in my mind, beautiful like most of the eastern European churches. Again all three of us stood in a place where we knew generations of our families had been baptized, married and had their memorials held. A place of our roots and we lit candles and said prayers for our family members, prayers of gratitude and thanks again for this day.
I took many pictures that day for memories for myself, for my cousins but also for them to share with their parents as they had come from this place. When Tjorven and I returned to Belgium his grandfather and my Uncle Kazik a man in his 80's and I sat down together. I showed him the photos and I asked him when he was there in that area last. He told me it had been many, many years that he never had a reason to go back to Krosno but had been to other parts of Poland. Then he started to tell me how during the Second World War the Germans had taken over the Glass factory. They chose it because it had a tower that the German Commanders and troops used as a lookout point as you could see for miles over to the Zelone Gory which translates to the Green hills that surround the town, they are beautiful lush and green hills, these same hills my Dad and Uncles would ski on. He then proceeded to tell me how he and my Fathers Family just left one night, never to come back to live in their native land. What a tragedy, how sad that is when we are forced to leave our homes by people who do not even belong in that country to start off with. I learned so much more about my Fathers escapades with my Uncle and it was wonderful for me to sit and watch and listen to the stories and he showed me many photographs that I had never seen before of my family and his. It was a wonderful time I spent with everyone and to this day I sit and look at the wonderful photographs and enjoy the great memories.
So My Simple Reminder here is to take the time and listen to your parents, grandparents, relatives stories of their journeys and how they got here to this place you are all at this day. If you were born in or have relocated to a different part of the world, I encourage you when you are able to, to one day just go back and walk in the footsteps of your ancestors, it is a very powerful thing to do, to step into a place where their energy was left behind along with many generations, as our energy is after all that one thing we leave behind that will always be here on this earth after we are all long gone. It is also a reminder that whatever country we live in around the world the chances are that country is of the free world, some of us though still live under a dictatorship, but most likely your country that you live in has evolved with many people from different cultures, religions, political beliefs and thinking. This Society that we live in is always going to have the "Haters of the world" no matter what, but we do not have to choose to follow them and we are the only ones that can make this a better place for ourselves and the generations to come.
Tjorven and Wojciech a Day to Remember with gratitude and love.
The photograph is of the actual stairs we walked to and from the Glass Factory to the site of the family apartment building where our ancestors walked and their energy stays and now ours in this beautiful land.
Sending you all love and light.