A trip to Poland: July 24 to August 6, 1998
My Polska Summer Trip
Nothing like a trip to Eastern Europe to give you a true appreciation for life and everything you have. Don't get me wrong, things in Poland are much better these days as compared to 19 years ago when I made my last trip there. At that time I was more concerned with only having a selection of two television channels and neither had decent kids' programming (I was 8 years old, it was 1979). This past summer my trip to Poland was a pleasant surprise. I expected to have fun and see family but I didn't expect to leave a part of me there--I didn't expect to fall in love with the cities we visited, I didn't expect to be charmed by the people we encountered. I simply expected a nice visit with family and a trip to see the sites.
My husband (non Polish speaking) didn't know WHAT to expect. He just hoped he could be able to purchase some Pepsi and hang out and relax for several weeks. My parents also went, they're goal was to return to their homeland and visit with family. Being that they are older folks (my father is 77 and my mother 69) I think they just wanted to ensure that they'd still have family if they went for a visit.
This web site is essentially the typical report of "What I did last summer", this report is complete with photos and comments to ease the travel throughout this site. I hope that I can convey to you the way we felt when we were in Poland and how the experiences we had enriched our lives.
Duane and I (Mare) outside in the park around Branicki Palace in Bialystok
Talk of going back to Poland has been debated in my parents home for several years. Since 1991 my mom and dad had discussed a return trip to no end. My cousin Monica was getting married and my mother was anxious to go to the wedding, but in true Sedacki fashion the whole thing was postponed and postponed. Finally, last March I threw a bone to my father: "I want to go back to Poland and I'd like it if you and mom could come with as well..." My father agreed readily, in truth he had been anxious to return to his homeland for many years and my mother kept putting it off. You need to know at this point my parents are older, my father 77 years old and a survivor of WWII as a slave laborer in the Mazury area of Poland and my mother is 69 years old, I believe that my father was anxious to return while he still could. Plane reservations were made by myself immediately so that minds could not be changed (as they often are in my family) and letters were written to family and thus July 23, 1998 we made the big 9 1/2 hour trip across the Atlantic to the homeland.
The day we arrived in Warsaw at Okecie Airport the day looked glum and dreary, it looked like it should rain. By the time we got out of the airport it was sunny and humid, the temperature was 27 degrees Celsius (no need to attempt to convert that, it was 81 degrees Fahrenheit). Waiting for us at the airport were my Uncle Josef and cousin Tomek (Joe and Tom). I hadn't seen either of them since I was 8 years old but somehow I recognized them (must've seen pictures and just remembered). We took a bus to the train station (that was a nightmare, think about travelling on a city bus with four people with at least 2 pieces of luggage each! Ugh?!). As we were on the bus I kept thinking "Next time I come here I'm only bringing the clothes on my back, a change of clothes, some underwear, money and camera!". Tomek attempted to entertain and quiz me relentlessly about American culture, needless to say he amused me (this continued throughout our stay at my uncle's home, I think he did it to get under my skin). A sample of some of the questions he bombarded me: "Do you live close to Michael Jordan's house?" (we live in Joliet, IL which is 40 minutes from Chicago), a long way from Michael's house. "Does everyone in the U.S. wear cowboy hats?" that question got me in a fit of giggles, I knew he was f-ing with me at that point.
Finally, we got off the god forsaken bus. I learned a new skill though, one that came in handy throughout my trip. You need to purchase a bilet (ticket) for the bus at the Ruch (the Ruch's are everywhere in Poland, like a newsstand you'd find in a major metropolitan area). When you get on the bus, you take your ticket and place it, silver strip up, into the bilet marker and push so that you validate your ticket. It's pretty much the honor system in Poland, the driver of the bus doesn't check your bilet-you don't pay the fare when you get on the bus, you just go through the necessary steps to validate your bilet.
We arrive at Warszawa Centralny (Warsaw Central) rail station. Culture shock here: the place in dingy and depressing. Dark gray and black walls, what isn't gray or black (or a shade there of) looks so bright and tacky. What isn't depressing about it is that you realize that it is a remnant of the Soviet days, very utilitarian in appearance and not really a true reflection of Poland. At this point the only impression Warsaw leaves me with is that I can't wait to get the hell out of there. We spend 2 hours at the train station guarding our luggage waiting for the train to Bialystok.
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