Published: May 28th 2012May 28th 2012
It was so special to see this on the road
Today was a very important day. Very fulfilling and I'm sure it was a very special Mother's day for mom. We would be travelling to her grandparent's villages. We had already visited the Archives in Krakow and submitted a search for the Foyt's (fojt) orgin. When we return to Krakow June 4th I will check on the progress of the investigation.
After breakfast I went to pick up the car that was not far from the square where it was parked overnight. In the garage I found I could not get the car into reverse gear. I actually put it in neutral and twisted the wheel to get it back enough so that I could turn it safely out of the lot and drive it up the ramp where mom and dad were waiting. OK, so now the adventure could begin.
We were heading for the village of Trutowo and Kijaszkowiec where both Antoni Zelaskowski and Balbina Wojciechowska were born, met and were married in 1903 before coming to the New York. This is my great grandparents on my mother's side and her grandparents on her mother's side of the family. Antoni's parents were Mateusz (Matthew) Zelaskowski and Waleria
Praying outside the church
It was packed. You could still hear the Mass
Klonoska. I had a pretty good idea of the route I was going to take but new it would get a bit confusing once we got off the main highway. Dad was in the passenger seat and mom in the back. We got a bit off track on a single lane country road and luckily a young couple who were biking by were able to direct us back on path. I knew we must be getting close but we had turned right at a fork in the road and then had to attempt a U-turn. We were stuck halfway across the road and of course could not complete the 3 point turn because we didn't know how to get it in reverse. We were stuck.
Everyone out of the car- so I can put it in neutral and with dad's assistance started to push the car off to the side. Luckily a small family was parking off the road ahead of us and was able to show us how to get the car in reverse. It is a good thing dad speaks Polish so well. So back on the road and towards St. Anne's parish. We passed a small
Our first look inside St. Anne's
cemetery on the left that we would end up returning to later in the day. Suddenly, there it was- a small sign in the road "TRUTOWO".
I couldn't believe it we had actually made it the village. A little bit farther and we came to the church. Cars were parked off to the side of the street and the Church was packed with people. It was Sunday and of course it was also Mother's day. Everyone was dressed for the occasion. I had shorts on but brought a pair of pants to change into just in case, which after I dropped off mom and dad and parked way up the road I was able to quickly change into. We waited outside the church as Mass was finishing up. There was a sign outside with the history of the church and a map. In Polish of course, but dad was able to read it. We made some small talk with a few parishioners while we waited for the special mass to end. I say special because it was also first communion.
When I slipped past the crowd for a peek, I was able to see all the little boys
and girls up near the front of the church dressed in white. Cio-Cia Stella would have been baptized here and had her first communion here as well. She would have been about the age of the little girl just prior to leaving her little town and coming to New York. The Church was beautiful inside and you can see by the photos how ornate. Mass finally ended and we all made our way into the church. Turns out this was not the church that Mom's grandparents were married in but certainly would have attended as this was in Antoni's village. Don't fret... we found the original church that they were married in - Balbina's hometown of Kijaszkowiec.
Before I get to that it is important to know that Antoni's parents (my great-great grandparents) had about 10 children. and about three died very early in the first year or a couple of years afterthey were born. They would have all attended this church as well. After mass we asked to talk to the priest. Dad was able to speak for us actually and eventually the priest showed up to help us. How lucky were we? He was very
accommodating and took us into the office and looked at our documents. He spoke with dad about the marriage and found some old ledgers or records that unfortunately only went back to 1922. He then gave us information for the parish that had collected the old records and how to reach it. We really didn't have time however as I had to return the rental car tha afternoon and the town was another 40Km each way. No telling if anyone would have been there to assist us anyway. We had an email and a phone number and could always follow up later. So after taking in the experience and I must say it is quite a feeling or feelings that are evoked to know you are walking in the footsteps of your ancestors and that their lives were spent here in this little township.
We headed back to the car. I had designs to attempt to visit Kijaszkowiec- Balbina's village. I saw it on the map at the Church that spoke of the History of the Church and Kijaszkowiec was too small to show up on the map that we had.
I knew it could not be far.
I turned down a dirt road and after a while we decided to stop and try another route off the main road from Trutowo. Not 400 meters later a sign came into view. Decorated no doubt to celebrate the Communion of a little girl that day. This was awesome. I turned right down the road and we followed it until a small lake came into view. Balbina and Antoni or their parents I believe owned a lake. CioCia Stella my grand aunt- would mend nets there for the fisherman who came. We got out of the car to take a photo and an older man came out (turns out he was a caretaker of the house we had stopped in front of) He spoke with dad in Polish about the region and the town. The town is really more of a town-ship and made up of several farms. We were able to take another route down the road. We stopped in front of a house that had some ducks and chickens in the yard and a small dirt road led off into the distance.
I felt we should go forward, but dad was not sure we should go down
Near the lake
Now how do we get over there?
the road. I got out and ran ahead and thought I saw a few more houses or so and at least a place to turn the car around if need be. I decided to go for it. We came upon a lovely little lake- this must
have been the lake. This is the picture you see in the photos below. I will try and post a short video as well. We followed the road around and could see from a bend in the road what looked like another church in the not too far distance. Well, we were headed that way anyway. I finally got off the dirt road and was back on pavement. The church was right up ahead on the right corner. I pulled in and was suddenly faced with a stunning old brick church standing out against the sky. We got out to explore. It was closed or locked- which would seem strange for a Sunday. Apparently the church was only used for funerals now. This just
had to be the church they were married in. I went around the back (the church was completely walled in but I didn't dare jump over because I saw a
Off the side of road
security sign on the front gate. I did notice, off in the distance a bit down the road, a few cars and some people milling about and I was curious as to what was going on. In just a few short minutes we would get our chance to find out because we would soon be joining them.
We were a bit disappointed that we could not enter the church but at the same time grateful that we had discovered the location of the church way out in this beautiful country side. I wasn't ready to give up though. I saw a small house near the church and a familiar sign which I think it was the same type of security sign that matched that of the one on the gate of the church and this may have caught my eye. Upon closer inspection I saw what looked like a Catholic cross on the door. Could this be the caretaker's place? or maybe the priest's home?
I slowly opened the gate and walked up the path. I gave a slight knock and thought I heard people talking inside. Someone shouted something and I didn't understand because it was in
Old farm house on the way to the lake
Who knows who may have lived here over the past 200 years or so.
Polish of course. I stepped back and was ready to give up and walk away but decided to reach out and touch what looked like a doorbell. It gave a funny little chime and then I heard someone really shout at me- I thought they were telling me either to go away or wait a minute. Mom and dad were out by the car 40 feet away near the church at this point, so I slowly started back towards them not knowing if anyone was planning to answer the door or not. Behind me the door swung open and I turned to see a man and woman in the entry way. They were talking to someone behind a desk. Turns out he was priest after all. Smoked like a chimney from the strong smell and the evidence of cigarettes butts in the ashtray. He was concluding some business with the couple and spoke a few words to me in Polish. I didn't go all the way in the house because a large black dog was blocking the entrance. I waved to dad to come in and please interpret for us. This was very fortunate. This rather large old priest was
Lake owned by Antoni and Balbina. CioCia Stella would have worked here on the lake as well.
quickly able to read the marriage certificate and he knew instantly where the marriage took place and pointed to the church just outside. He said the ceremony would have been held there after a civil ceremony took place in the adjacent town. I asked dad to ask the Priest if there was a cemetery nearby. Indeed, right down the road where I saw a few people earlier. This church was only used for funerals now and the cemetery behind the church belonged to the parish. Mom asked if there was a way to look inside the church, but he told us there is no key, or the person who has the key does not work on Sundays. No one really does and I'm sure he had some cemetery records or plot numbers of family members that would have been helpful. There must be some Wojciechowska' s here or wski's the male counterpart. We also learned that when you see Wojciechoskcsy- the Csy means from the family of. I spied a tombstone in just a few minutes of looking that had that name on there and was confused. There were some very nice people actually trying to help us locate traces
of our family history. Perhaps we can make our way back this way on the return journey.
I was running up and down rows looking for any familiar surname I could find. I couldn't help snapping a photo of a rather newer headstone with the name Alina on it. You can see a photo of it and the nice lady and her daughter below. It is frustrating to walk by old wooden crosses with no indication of the individual buried there or an old faded headstone that is unreadable. In some cases there was just a mound of dirt. I would stand there and wonder. The small grave sites are what really get to me. I know that some of the younger siblings who died early in life would have had similar graves and some of those the infant type gravesites were very old and without names or dates.
We finally left the cemetary as it was getting late. We headed to the small cemetary we passed earlier just past St. Anne's in Trutowo and dad stayed in car while mom and I explored. Those are some of the Zelaskowski photos you see posted. While dad was in
Outside the church
We were waiting patiently to go inside. First communion was taking place.
the car and old man was riding his bike up the hill in his suit and saying a prayer out loud to those buried that their souls may rest in peace. Funny, he must have been close to 90. He must have had parents, wife, brothers, sisters buried there and who knows--he could have had been related to us in some way.
Today was amazing. There is such a feeling of connection. Roots.
I feel it when I see the farmers in the field and find familiarity in the children's faces. I went for a run for about an hour when we returned and reflected on the day. My soul was happy.
We celebrated with a nice drink in a little underground pub that night and had one last walk around town in Tourn. (I'll post photos later)
This morning we are on our way to Gdansk on the train, but prior dad and I visited the archive building just down the street as it was not open on the weekend. Good information and a very accomodating fellow helped us out. Dad is really practicing his Polish, this trip would be very difficult without him. Will
History posted outside church
Originally a Carmelite Nunnery and they were eventually given 24,000 Zl to build a church around 1725
update you tomorow.
There are more photos below