Eighteen years tends to change a country. While there are parts of Poland that have not changed (and likely will not ever change, thanks to preservation and interest), a lot has in fact changed. There are suburbs where you can drive-through a McDonalds on your way home, stop in at a big box store for groceries and other household goods, and I daresay the malls are even bigger than the ones back home. I guess economic freedom has really taken off in Poland.
But like I said, many things are still the same. The best bakery in Kazimerz still sells their delicious sauerkraut rolls and blueberry rolls. The main square hasn’t changed either. Maybe the items in the souvenir shops have evolved, but again, not much. It’s the same ol’ postcards, jewelry and prints that were there eighteen years ago.
This is the main reason to go to #Kazimierza. This bakery makes some of the best buns and pasteries in Poland. Rustic brioche buns stuffed with sauerkraut or blueberries (depending on if it's lunch or dessert) and the iconic Kazimierz kogut (rooster). Last time we were in Poland my sister and I tried to take one home, but sadly it broke during our travels. This time mom and I loaded up on buns. #mygreatpolishadventure
One thing that has definitely changed is my family. All of my cousins are older than I. They have all had children. I’m the last one in that respect, but it’s to be expected when you are the youngest. In a lot of ways, my cousins are like my siblings that I left behind. I don’t know what it’s like for other cousins, but I feel a sisterly bond with my cousins. Ewa took me dancing on one of our last nights in Wroclaw. Ania took me shopping for a birthday gift for her seven-year-old son and we had a great heart-to-heart. In fact, we’ve been very open with each other since I arrived.
When I was little I wanted a big family. I even drew fake siblings into a family portrait I was assigned to create when I was in the first grade. I think part of that came from feeling so isolated from my cousins who, up until we left Poland, we saw on a regular basis. Now, 25 years later, I’m rekindling a relationship with my cousins. It’s like time never really passed and we’ve been in touch all this time. Of course we haven’t, but it’s not too late either. We can still have a relationship — perhaps even a better one — now that we are all adults.
I’m happy that I’m here, but a part of me misses my old life in Toronto as well. Catching up on Facebook these days is a study in trying not to get too down about things. Most days are okay, but there are occasional moments where I wish I hadn’t seen something because it makes me miss life in Toronto. Luckily there is enough happening in Poland that my mind is occupied, but there are still days. There will always be days like this, I think. The trick is to not give into the dip, but to soar out of it and back onto an even keel.
The other pleasant task I’ve put myself in charge of is helping my mother gather information about our family into a comprehensive collection. Lots of things happened in Poland before I was ever a glimmer in anyone’s eye and it’s exciting to find clues. For instance, we found the church my grandparents were wed in and my father was christened in. It’s a stone’s throw away from their first home in Wroclaw, which we also visited. While many buildings in the neighborhood stood decaying, covered in the soot and grime of city life from nearly a century of standing, my father’s old building was beautifully renovated, clean and dignified. I believe he would have been pleased to see it standing so well when so many others looked old and decrepit.
My mother and I have a few plans ahead of us. I’ve picked up another two Gogobot contracts for Warsaw and Krakow, which I will work on in August and September. It’s nice to be able to work while I’m away. Mom and I want to visit Lodz to see the church where her mother and father were wed in, much like we went to find my father’s parent’s church. We’d like to go to Lublin and Swidnik, where I was born, to see some of the old familiar sights. Then there’s also talk of spending some time on the Baltic and maybe even a jaunt outside of Poland, but that’s all very up in the air.
If you’re reading this and are interested in a postcard, shoot me an email at olga (at) olgakwak.com with your address. It’s always fun to send them (and receive them.)
Tagged: My Great Polish Adventure