Hello! Hello!, Goodbye! Goodbye!

On Monday we left grandma Halinka, aunt Bogusia (my Godmother), uncle Krzysiek, and cousins Artur and Renata, and all the family on my Dad’s side that came to Renatka’s wedding. It was a hard day, but then goodbyes are always hard. How can we know when we will come back again and for how long. I was trying to fit three years of catching up into three days during which there were wedding preparations, a wedding, and then recovery time. I managed to hang out a little bit with everyone, but it did feel like a speeding express train skipping over tracks.
We drove 3 hours from the village of Piaski, near the town of Lututow, to the town of Tarnowo Podgorne near the city of Poznan. At the end of the day we saw my uncle Mietek, aunt Krystyna, their daughters with husbands and children: Gosia – husband Jacek and son Ziemek, and Kasia – husband Krzysiek and son Kacper. It was a house full of children and grandchildren for uncle and aunt and with me, Jason, and Nicholas it was even more louder. In the next two days, Tuesday and Wednesday we saw grandpa Jozef at noon and aunt Krystyna and uncle Mietek with family in the evening. Dziadek Jozef lives on the farm where he moved with his wife and children about 40 years ago. His son Piotrek works the farm with his wife Renata and their children David, Lukasz, and Evelina who is married to Marcin and has a daughter Nichole. The last three were on vacation at the Baltic Sea. We chatted, watched Nicholas play with everyone, and ate good Polish food. On Tuesday Jason, Nicholas and I drove to Rogalin to see the palace there, only to discover that the palace is closed till September for renovations. It was 5 pm and the castle in Kurnik near by would have probably been closed too. Plus it was late, we were tired and the bugs were eating us alive. We are sick of the bugs, not just the mosquitoes but all the other country bugs that take nibbles at us. We also miss our own bed and basement where we can escape the heat, there is no escaping it here. Yesterday we said our goodbyes.
Today is Thursday and we are driving to Ludz, where I lived till the age of ten at which point I came to United States. Till next time.

Cousin Gosia & Family/ Czestochowa – hotel Sekwana best location ever

We had a great time visiting with my cousin Malgosia, her husband Jacek and their three year old son Ziemek. They live in Kozienice, about an hour south of Warszawa. From there it was a three and a half hour drive to Czestochowa, which means “hides a lot”. This is one of the most important places for the Polish Catholics, in other words for most Poles. Czestochowa is home to the church containig the “Black Maddona”, a very old icon of Mary and Jesus. Wikipedia has a good description and history of the “Black Maddona” so I won’t go into it.
Our hotel Sekwana, was in a great location to take the stroller up the hill where the church was. There is the museum where you can see a copy of the icon up close and without the centuries of damage, as well as other interesting things, however with the baby we focused only on the church, which was beautiful and very cool versus the sweltering heat outside. We could not have found a better location for lodgings. On the same street as our hotel there was a pharmacy, a medical suply store (get your wrist brace here if you forgot to pack it like we did), an electronics store where we got a three-way power splitter, a grocery store and restaurants. We could have even gotten haircuts if we wanted to at the local salon. All this and that’s only on the hotel side of the street. It was a good time to be in Czestochowa because it was between the religious holidays and pilgrimage seasons so the streets were not swarming with groups of pilgrims (tour groups, scouts, church clubs, and religious personale from all of Poland and surrounding countries). Be warned though; Pilgrimage season starts sometime in the summer so check before you visit, especialy if traveling with children.

Nicholas Allan Sturgeon has joined the family.

Marzena and I are happy to welcome Nicholas to our little family. I will start posting more when I have a chance to sleep. 🙂



Aug 20

We had to leave Piaski today. Jason promised Uncle Krzysiek to practice volleyball. He also promised to improve his “Dart” technique, especially since he lost miserably to Uncle Krzysiek. It was once again hard to part with family; but at least Renatka and Artur were going to the city of Wroclaw with us. We saw the “Raclawice Panorama”, a giant canvas painting (15 meters by 114 meters, and to give you an idea of how large that is: I am 5 feet 1 inch tall, or 1.55 meters). The painting is wrapped around the internal walls of the rotunda in the form of an unbroken circle and viewed from an elevated central balcony. It depicts the battle of Raclawice fought on 4 April 1794 between the Polish insurrectionist peasant army, lead by Tadeush Kosciuszko, and Russian troops.

In the evening we went to Old Town with my cousins and Renatka’s boyfriend. His last name literally means “little fishy” so we had to joke that we are related to him because Sturgeon is a fish also. We finished the evening by teaching Renatka, Artur, and “little fishy”-Lukasz, Texas Hold’em Poker. The pretzels we had with us made good chips to bet with, although we kept on loosing them through the cracks in the cafe table.
In the morning Renatka and Artur took us to the train station and we parted one last time with family in Poland. And then I felt very sad. We had one more week in Poland and we would not see any more Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, Grandma or Grandpa.

Mushroom Hunting

August 19

When you ask someone who has just come from the forest with a basket full of mushrooms “Where are the mushrooms?” they will look at you, smile, and say “In the forest.” they just won’t tell you where in the forest. The places of where mushrooms can be found are carefully guarded by mushrooms hunters/gatherers, and Uncle Krzysiek took us to just such a place. Unfortunately, no matter how much Jason, Renatka, Artur, Uncle and I looked they just were not there. It was too dry and too early, but we did not give up hope. As we drove through the forest on the designated/(ridden into a permanent state by other drivers over the years) road, we looked at the forest road till we heard Renatka scream, “Stop! I see a big one!”. Unfortunately there was only one. A few yards up the road I screamed “Stop! I see one.” there were three. A few miles further there were some more and eventualy we had half a basket of what I think in English are called “The King Boylean” or “Boylin” – Prawdziwki (look it up I don’t have an encyclopedia on me). And that was that for the wild forest, of course like true mushroom hunters we had that undying hunger to fill both of the baskets. This need brought us to Uncle’s home made forest which was crawling with Maslaki (rough slang translation accumulates to “Butter Mushrooms” because they had a slimy top, they are tasty but icky to touch).

So with these we filled up our baskets. Back home Grandma, Aunt Bogusia, and I peeled them. My finger tips were brown for three days straight from peeling those fungi. In the evening over sausages from the grill and vodka we all sang old Polish Campfire and Scout songs, even grandma surprised us by singing with us. When it was Jason’s turn to lead us in song he choose “We all live in the yellow submarine…” refrain, and we all followed to it since Beatles were big pretty much everywhere.

So here are some yummy recipes, remember you need cook the mushrooms first before canning, making soup or sauce out of them.

Cooking fresh mushrooms:
Peel mushrooms, chop from stem to cap checking for bugs, if you find holes, the worms are close and you might as well throw them away.
Put mushrooms in cold water (twice as much water as mushrooms) for 4 handfuls of mushrooms put in a tablespoon of salt. If you know now that you want to make soup now add 6 leaves of Italian (flat leaf) parsley when mushrooms are not cooked yet (remove before they become mushy). Add one small onion the size of half of a fist (or quarter of a fist if you are a football player)
Boil/simmer for an hour or until soft (thoroughly soft, not just squishy).
Next, well it depends what you want to do with them. If you want to can them then put them drained in a jar quickly, well packed, close jar, store in cool dark place for up to 3 months. Or you ca put them in zip lock bags (minus the water) and freeze them.

So you just cooked them and they are soft enough to eat pleasantly. You will use the mushrooms and the water they are swimming in to make soup. Add a pinch of pepper, 200 grams (8oz cup) of sour cream (although its in a firm state you may want to stir some of the mushroom water into the sour cream to liquid it up) and 1 tablespoon of flour for thickening (add the flour into a cup first and a tablespoon of cold/ice water to the flour and work into a thin paste). Hopefully you removed the parsley before it disintegrated. At the very end right before serving you can chop some Italian Flat Leaf Parsley and throw some on the soup. You can eat it straight, with boiled barley, or with pasta (I suggest Angel Hair pasta).

Mushroom sauce
Saut̩ chopped onions, 2 handfuls (roughly) for 4 handfuls of mushrooms, when transparent add the freshly cooked mushrooms, saut̩ till it smells yummy, add 2 Р4 tablespoons of sour cream (with water worked in for smooth texture), bring to boling stage, add flour (with cold water worked in like for soup). Add more salt/pepper to your liking, sprinkle some freshly chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, eat with boiled potatoes.


We are the Champions, Well sometimes

August 18

Another relaxing day with family, chatting with Grandma, looking at her garden and the enormous Magnolia tree, watching Uncle Krzysiek get excited about sports (expecting to win with Jason on his team). And so in the afternoon, after a nap and a coffe, we were all ready for the big game, the players: Uncle Krzysiek with Jason (once again showing team spirit by wearing matching shirts) against Renatka and Artur, with me as the official Volleyball photographer. Aunt Bogusia came to the beach volleyball court in the village next door where the match took place later with her girlfriend to watch and support the players. The stakes were high: the loosers would have to buy beer for the winners. The first match was won by the very joyful Uncle Krzysiek and Jason. In the second match just as Renatka and Artur were coming back almost matching the opositions, again, high score, rain broke out and poured so hard that all the players, photographer and fans escaped to the comfort of their dry cars. So the winners were Uncle Krzysiek and Jason and they were presented with the beer/edible trophy during the championship photo session. All were celebrated that night with food and Hazelnut Vodka. Good game, good game Everyone.


Travel to Piaski

Aug 17th

Thursday we took a train to the city of Sieradz where my Aunt Bogusia Hofman (also my Godmother) and her daughter Renatka picked us up and drove us home to the village of Piaski. The railroad does not go through Piaski. I have not seen them since our wedding. When we got to Piaski we were greeted by my Dad’s Mom, Grandma Halinka, Uncle Krzysiek (Aunt Bogusia’s husband) and by their son, Artur, Renatka’s brother.
When Uncke Krzysiek saw Jason he said that in our wedding pictures he looked like Hurcules and Uncle was glad that Jason was not bigger then him but the same size, and he immediately recruited Jason to his Voleyball team. The practice match took place that evening in the back yard against the opposition composed of Renatka and Artur. Jason even got a matching t-shirt to play in while on Uncle’s team. After the practice Jason was told that the game will take place the next day in the town on a beach volleyball court.

We took a walk with Uncle Krzysiek, Renatka, and Artur to the forest of pine trees that Uncle planted 5 years ago. It was thick and taller than Jason with ediable mushrooms growing under the trees.
It was great being with family and taking a break from the traveling. We even got to do laundry.

Just so you get an idea of my cousins’ ages:
Artur just finished his first year at the University and Renatka just finished her Masters’ Degree and will be starting a job shortly where she will be speaking with customers in German.


Last Day with Family in Gaj Wielki and in Tarnow Podgurne

Sunday August 13th

This time we did not take the bus and walk to Gaj Wielki, instead Uncle Mietek drove us. After he gave us a tour of Tarnowo, via car, we went to the cemetery where grandma is buried (my Mom’s Mom). The church next to it is 800 years old and has just gone through a conservation process. The cemetary is undescribably beautiful and I can not do it justice by writing about, so please wait for photos. I will say this: families come once a week, mostly Saturday and clean the gravestones, weed, put fresh flowers and candles on the graves and tidy the surrounding area. It always looks as if it was All Souls day. There is no grounds-keeper, the familes keep everything looking nice.

We were hoping that the rain at the cemetary would not follow us but alas we were not so lucky. It was raining through out the day and the gray weather kept the rooster confused. The poor fella was cock-a-doo-a-doing all day long every few hours. We spend most of the day with my Mom’s Dad, Juzek Koziol, his youngest son Uncle Piotrek, Uncle Piotrek’s wife Renata, their 2 sons David-just finished college and Lukasz (Luke) – high school. Their oldest child Evelina, in her early 20s, was not there since she and her fiance were busy personally delivering invitations to their wedding next month, unfortunately we don’t have enough vacation to be here for it.
Althought the weather kept us inside we had a great time talking with Grandpa, (he is 86), Uncle Piotrek and Aunt Renata. Jason has a curious mind and is a very engaging conversationalist, so as a translator it was a hard working day for me, but I was very happy that we had the opportunity for my family to get to know Jason.

Besides learning what life for a farmer was like during the communist times and how it differs now under the European Union, we also discussed farm life in general. They use to grow sugar beets, wheats, corn for feed and potatoes. Everything that was grown would be bought by the communist government at very decent rates, so things were very good for farmers at that time. Now it does not pay to grow such things since there is no buyer for them due to world commerce being the driving force of the European Union. This means that even though Poland can produce many things, they are not encouraged to do so by the EU, because the EU wants Poland to buy these products from the other EU countries. So where once there was a buyers to be found for pigs and cows (for food), now there isn’t one and EU tracks every piece of livestock and every crop. The crops that the Koziol Farmers farm now are for their livestock and for themselves. Although they have pigs, cows and chickens, they sell only milk and get most of there money from that. Sometimes people do come directly to they and buy a pig or a cow, but this is also tracked and not their primary source of income.

When the rain took a break for a short while, we took the opportunity to strech our legs and I showed Jason the farm as the rest of the family tended to the animals. Grandpa went to the bulls to change their straw with a pitchfork. When we went up to him he signaled to us to go ahead and get closer. This was something Jason was not too keen on doing since he has never been this close to an animal that theareticaly could maul him. As grandpa stood in the door way to the bull pen, Jason got close enough for the chained, beautiful blue-black eyed bull to sniff him. All the bulls behaved themselves, they know better then to piss-off Grandpa.
Since we, the adults, toasted with Krupnik, honey and herb vodka liquor, David drove us to Uncle Mietek’s.

After one last hot tea and cake with Uncle Mietek’s family, he drove us to the city to our hotel in Poznan. We had a train the next morning to Warszawa (Warsaw) and it was less stressfull to be able to spend the night in Poznan and walk to the train station in the morning. By the time we got to our hotel we were wiped. Jason snored instantly and I, although completely exhausted from translating all day long, could not sleep. My mind would not rest. Good thing there was a tv in a seperate section of our room so that Jason could comfortably snore away as I watched “The Mummy” dubbed in German, ‘Oh Shnell’.


Poznan and an Evening with Family in Tarnow

Saturday August 12th

Our hotel in Tarnow was within walking distance of everything in the Town of Tarnow, so on Saturday morning (5:30) we rolled out of bed and headed over to Uncle Mietek’s place to say good buy to Malgosia, her husband Jacek and the little Zemus (formal is Ziemowit, a very old Polish name, he is 10 weeks old). Jason got to bounce the little fella on his knee and we had breakfast with them. We got back to our hotel around 7:30 but could no longer fall asleep. All that was left was to head to the city where I was born, Poznan, 20 miles away from Tarnow.

Poznan’s beginnings go back to the 10th century, when a settlement was founded there. In 968 the town cathedral was build and the city grew. Today it is a large city with a lot of history and my favorite art museum, the Poznan National Museum. In the summer the museum is not crowded with school children and we spent 3 hours in it. Among the various modern art pieces and experiments in cubism and surrealism there was one floor with the clasical Polish paintings. Many of these I recognized from ilustrations in periodicals, children’s literature, and even reproductions that adorned my pre-school walls in Poland. These paintings of other children or of the Polish countryside with Polish people working the land burned themselves in my mind and it was a great feeling of happiness to look at them again.

By the time we left the museum, we could feel the toll of waking up as early as we did. After walking around Old Town and eating lunch at the “Under the Goats” (that is what the restaurant was called since it was under the city hall tower on which 2 mechanical wooden goats come out evey hour to butt heads much to the tourists’ amusement) we made it to only one other museum before heading back to the hotel and dropping dead on our very hard matresses for the afternoon nap.

In the evening we walked back to Uncle Mietek’s place with a Wisnowka (Sour Cherry Vodka), which we could not bring back due to the recent developments at the London airports, then ‘by golly’ we would drink it with family. Nazdrowie/Salut. Uncle Mietek, who is the older brother of my Mom, worked in a steel mill and is now retired. He and his wife Crystyna, have three children (all adults, oldest one is few days younger than I) in order of age from oldest to youngest 2 girls and a boy: Malgosia, Kasia, and Andzej. Uncle Mietek has a great interest and talent for building his own house, garage, plastic green house, pond, and gardening. Jason bombarded him with questions on all aspects of building and gardening. It was a great evening filled with food, Wisniowka, and conversation. My mouth and head hurt at the end of the evening from all the translation back and fourth and I still had Sunday ahead of me. Tomorrow, we are spending the day with Grandpa and Uncle Piotrek’s family on the farm in Gaj Wielki and once again I am going to be the translator. For now we are going to sleep very well.


A Day of Travel and a Family Introduction

A notice to family about the recent travel concerns. We have not been affected by the new security procedures yet. We have only been taking trains. We are hoping the procedures and delays will be fixed by the time we take our flight back. We are also a bit behind on posts, but hope to catch up soon.

Friday Aug 11th

We traveled to Poznan. From Poznan, a very large city, we took a bus to the town of Tarnowo Podgurskie, where my Uncle Mietek lives with his family. From here, after dropping our bags off at our hotel, we took another local bus to reach the village of Gaj Wielki, where my Grandpa, Uncle Piotrek and family live on a farm. After getting of the bus I realized that I did not recognize where I was and the thought of “maybe I should have taken up Uncle Piotrek on his offer to pick us up, instead of re-creating for Jason the trip Mom and I would take in the summer to reach the farm, which was a one mile walk from the bus stop to the farm but seemed a lot more when I was 7, with luggage, and whinning”. It is good thing that I remembered certain landmarks (ex. Red brick school, chappel, and the cemetary at the end of the village) because the locals were able to direct us in the right direction. So finaly we were on our way as it slowly got dark and I realized that I was not sure how far the farm was, every which way were fields, some roads, trees, and once in a while a farm house with a barn. We were closer than I thought and soon we were having hot tea and cake with Grandpa and the rest of the family. We also visited with Uncle Mietek in Tarnowo Podgurne that night and got to see my cousin Malgosia with husband and new 10 week old baby. The last time I saw her was at her wedding 4 years ago. Her son, Ziemus (how we all call him) was very content in Jason’s arms. We saw them again in the morning at about 6am when they were leaving for home which is a 6 hour drive away, with a small baby, that is not an easy ride at times. It was a good day and I had an introduction to being a translator, something that although very enjoyable, was a bit draining in the next two days.


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