Published: September 26th 2011September 26th 2011
Note: All events described in this entry occurred between late September to early October 2006. For more updated entries and trips. please refer back to this blog at a later date. Thanks!
My last four days in Krakow really sucked because I came down with either the flu or a bad case of the common cold. The next day after my trip from Auschwitz, I woke up with a sore throat and a heavy cough. I have the chills and my body aches. I have no choice but to stay in the hostel because I didn't want myself to get even more sick. the manager offers to have a staff member pick up some medicine for me, however I did come prepared with some Airborne and some cough medicine. However, in three days I started to feel better. During my last Sunday when I started to feel better I made an effort to go to mass at a local church. I had seen one close to my hostel on my way back from the Salt Mines tour, so I figured I'd go there. However, there was a church across the street that was in the middle of mass, so I decided to see if I could step in. The church was so crowded, that there were ten people kneeling outside praying and participating in the mass. It was towards the end, however I decided to hang out. The mass ended at it was taking forever for the church to clear, so I decided to go to the one I had initially intended to attend. I was able to follow along despite the language barrier, however one I will say is that the Polish are incredibly fervent and strict Catholics. Most of the parishioners had confession with the priest before mass, and not a seat was empty. Everyone stood up to greet the priest, everyone answered and said their prayers and went up to accept the Eucharist. How you receive the Eucharist in a Polish church is that you walk up to the alter, kneel down and the priest will come to you when it's your turn and put the Eucharist in your mouth. You see, I was always taught to walk up to the alter, remain standing in line and I could receive the Eucharist either in my hands or in my mouth (I normally take the Eucharist with my hands). I spent my last day touring Market Square again, and ate dinner at a local pierogerie where I had a feast of meat pierogies, cream of mushroom soup and stuffed cabbage, which tasted just like my mother's recipe. Before returning back to the hostel I went into a zukerie and bought a swirled poppy seed sweet bread to eat for breakfast on the bus trip home.
I have a taxi come to the hostel to take me to the bus station. I arrive and I attempt to look for my platform, without much help. I go into an office an attempt to find someone who spoke French, Spanish or English. Luckily there was a Polish lady who spoke fluent French and was able to translate for me where I needed to go. She was also getting onto the same bus because she lives in France now. As we walked to the platform she began to ask me about my trip to Poland, why I came, etc. I told her my grandfather's story and my itinerary and how much I had enjoyed my visit and was looking forward to returning. She recommend that I should go to Gdansk next trip, because of its location near the sea and she felt it was quite beautiful. Our conversation ended unfortunately when I got onto the bus, because she ended up sitting somewhere else.
The bus makes stops in Lublin and Wroclaw on the way back to France. We did stop back in Germany at night once we crossed the Polish German border, which took a long time, probably as long as when we first arrived. We made a pit stop in a rest area off the road, and we just walked around and took a few bathroom breaks. I do remember waking up and finding ourselves back in France, driving through the Lorraine region. revisiting the same farms and villages we passed by during my initial trip to Warsaw. We made another pit stop in a gas station, and I bought myself something to drink since I still had left over kielbasa and the poppy seed bread. All the movies during this trip were in Polish as were the passengers, but I didn't mind. Especially once after this last pit stop one of the ladies started to pass around a bag of candy she had purchased for all the passengers to sample. I begin to think about my trip as I ate my candy. I thought about Warsaw, Krakow, Auschwitz and Wieliczka, and everything I had learned. This was a very emotional yet educational trip for me, both on how to travel and plan a trip, but also about WWII history and Polish history and art. I did accomplish my mission to a certain point-I learned that the Polish spirit, at least to me, meant to stand up and fight for their way of life and to be passionate about the arts, but also to be compassionate and loving to others. Promote the goods things in life, and even though the past hurts, we will not become of victims of it, seemed to be an aspect of the Polish spirit that I brought back home with me. I also knew more about my grandfather and what he must of been like and more or less what he experienced. He was a lucky man thank goodness he was smart and worked hard to plan his escape, or else he would have been a goner. However, I now understand why he would stand in grocery stores and just get sick at seeing all the food. I now understand why my grandmother and him argued and why he had a hard time feeling comfortable staying home, and why he experienced PTSD when he fought in the Korean War-it was his past from the concentration camps-who wouldn't be psychologically messed up after that. And after all, from what I could see, his story was not far fetched. I did see houses outside of Warsaw that looked like farms, everyone in Poland was carrying psychological wounds from WWII and the communist era and even though I didn't prove the fact that gentile Poles (however I'm not sure if he was gentile or Jewish I'm just assuming that from what I know about him) were put into camps like Auschwitz, a lot of the horrors described during that tour seemed to correspond with my grandfather's psychological reactions towards his life with my grandmother and grandfather. I told mom on the phone when I got back to Dijon, "listen he loved you and grandma very much, you just have to understand that what he went through just messed him up. All of your problems with him had nothing to do with him or you guys-blame the Nazis and the concentration camps for this. I feel he did his best to show his love to you two, even though it wasn't the greatest method, you have to understand that he needed help that only a psychiatrist could have given him, however it might have been too late. So I ask you two to forgive him please."
Mom was silent, but then said, "honey, your trip has helped me to understand him better too. You've shown me that he wasn't a liar and that his story is very true and that he was a victim of his past. You have to understand it was hard for your grandmother and I to see that because at the time we needed him to be husband and father and he wasn't. His absence hurt me a lot, but you're right, everything he did was not a reflection of his love for us, but of his past demons. Of course I'll forgive him honey, and actually, you've inspired me to go to Poland. I'd like to go with you someday-Id like to see Warsaw I want to learn more about him."
This made me smile and grandfather, wherever you are, may you rest in peace and know that we love you, and are sorry for everything you suffered through. I will do my part, to let everyone know what I do about what happened and I will work hard to combat human rights issues in your name, and continue the healing process in our family. You have given me the gift of knowledge and travel, for which I'm ever grateful. Dziekuje bardzo!