Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Polish Origins Tour - Day Two

We woke up in beautiful Toruń. We had a great vantage point from our room to get some photos of some old townhouses. 

After breakfast, we checked out and loaded our luggage into the van. We then did some more sightseeing in Toruń. We found the interesting Renaissance granary on Piekary Street. The windows were designed to look like the bags of grain that were stored inside when it was built in the first half of the 17th century.

We checked out the Leaning Tower of Toruń. It was built in the 13th century. There are legends as to why it leans, but no one really knows.

We found the Gingerbread Walk of Fame. It has bronze plaques shaped like ‘Katarzynka’ (Toruń gingerbread) engraved with present day famous people connected with Toruń. 

Janusz Leon Wiśniewski is a Polish scientist and writer. He wrote a book who's english translation was titled 'Loneliness on the Net'. I wonder if he is related to Julianna (and therefore me) he's from the same general area she was from!

Clarissa and I opted to do a gingerbread making class, while Richard and M wandered around the city. Our class was full of a couple school groups of children, which made it interesting.

Gingerbread, the famous ginger spiced cookies, hail from Toruń. They have been made here for over 700 years! It starts with honey and sugar, you add a lot of spices (in the class we had to guess the spice being passed around - which includes allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper....I don't typically associate pepper with a baked good!), then your usual flour, egg, baking soda, water.

We used the original method of cookie making, of course the process is more streamlined for cookies sold in the shops. 

Here's some shots Richard got around town. 

We then all met back up and headed out to Radzanów. This is the village that Antoni was born in. Radzanów is about 47 miles (76 km) from Płonne, where Julianna was born. While 47 miles is a little over an hour drive in modern day, they lived in the time before cars were invented! Ula told us that it appears Antoni Piasecki's parents - Jan Piasecki and Julianna Różycka (or Ruzicka) moved around a lot for work. Jan's job on record was something like field laborer, so he would move the family to where the work was. 

We found the Saint Roch Parish church. The building was under construction. So while this is the Parish that Antoni's parents were married in and Antoni was baptized in, this would not be the same building (but likely the same location).  

So a fun part of the tour was when we were in a town and as we would be wandering around the church, Ula would go off and talk to the locals. She would ask if there were any families still in the area related to whoever was born in that town. In Radzanów, we were told this house was built by one of Antoni's grandparents (it's been a while since we took the trip, but I think it was the parents of his mother (Julianna Różycka) who built the house). 

We stopped at the cemetery just outside of Radzanów. We did not see any family names in the cemetery. One thing we did learn was that in Poland, once a grave is no longer being maintained the plot will be reused by someone new. So likely I do have ancestors in this cemetery, they are just underneath a raised grave that was built on top. 

A view of the landscape, likely land that Antoni's father once worked.

We then drove on to Ciechanów, where were staying for our second night. Here's where we traveled our first and second day.

Once in Ciechanów, we checked into our hotel and walked around John Paul II Square (with the town hall on one end) to find some dinner. 

We also spotted this interesting street sign ("ul." translates to street). 

After we ate, we walked over to Castle of the Dukes of Mazovia. The Duchy of Masovia was founded in 1138. From what I gather, a duchy was districts within the Kingdom of Poland. It appears like the Kingdom of Poland broke apart into duchies, reunified, broke apart again (several times), and were finally reunified for good in 1526.

Miniature statue of a Duke of Mazovia. It is estimated the castle was built in the middle of the 13th century and used as a residence in the 1420s. The information sign also said that the castle was originally built on an artificial island and was connected to the town via a 985 foot (300 meter bridge). Places like this always make me ponder.....did I have ancestors that worked or lived in this castle a 1000 years ago?!?!

The two cylindrical corner towers. The east tower served as an arsenal and the west tower served as a prison. The towers are more than 65 feet (20 meters) tall!

People perspective for size! The castle is open to tour, but it was too late in the day and it was closed.

The sky began to get beautiful behind the castle as we were leaving!

We then walked over to pedestrian street as someone had a hankering for ice cream. We also caught the most spectacular sunset while walking along the street and back to our hotel.

I'll wrap up this day with a photo of Caroline (Antoni's youngest daughter), her husband, Joe, and their two kids.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Polish Origins Tour - Day One

Our guide, Ula, picked us up from our hotel. We loaded up all our bags and headed northwest and out of Warsaw. Our first stop was Dulsk, Poland, about 2.5 hours from Warsaw. 

We were driving along a one way partial dirt country road through farmland. I commented if I had attempted this trip with my dad, we probably would have turned around at some point.

In Dulsk, we stopped at the Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church. 

This is the church that my grandmother's parents, Julianna Wiśniewska and Antoni Piasecki were married in around 1901! Julianna and Antoni had four children while living in the area; Jessica, Stella, Stanley, and Virginia. Antoni went to the U.S. first (I think he was sponsored by his brother) and in 1914 Antoni sponsored Julianna and the kids to join him the U.S. After they all arrived in the U.S., Julianna and Antoni had three more children, Genevieve, Helen, and Caroline (my grandmother). 

We hopped back in the van and headed to Płonne, where Julianna was born. Her parents were Łukasz Wiśniewska and Marianna Bąkowska.

The date inscribed on the church is 1402, though the building looks a little more modern. This is the Catholic Church of Saint James the Apostle. This would have been the church Julianna was baptized in and attended while growing up.

Next to the church was the bell tower. Clarissa and walked over to explore it. 

Just down the hill from the bell tower was an ivy covered building....we headed over for a little impromptu photo shoot. 

Of course when a cat was spotted, we must go say

We stopped at the cemetery in Płonne. We spotted a grave marker for someone who was born around when Julianna and Anthoni got married, so we were guessing he may have been a nephew or cousin of Julianna.

Our next stop was the Golub Castle in Golub-Dobrzyń County. The castle was built in 1293 by the Teutonic knights. 

It's somewhat interesting in that it was a perfectly square castle with an open courtyard in the middle.

We were able to walk around some exhibits on the history of the middle floor. The ground floor was a restaurant, restrooms, and a little shop. We did not view the top level. The basement was the highlight for Clarissa. It was fun of all kinds of medieval torture devices. These included a nail covered chair, a pillory (for hours of public ridicule), and this strange box that you would lock people in.

The castle is said to have horse stairs, stairs that the knights used to ride the horse up on from the courtyard to to their chambers. I can imagine it smelled lovely in the summers with the horses sleeping upstairs. The stone entryway.

Of course, we found the castle cats.....

There was a lovely view of the city, Golub-Dobrzyń, below and a former moat-like depression to run down and back up in.

We then headed on to Toruń for our first night's stop. After checking into our hotel, we walked around Toruń. Due to being settled around the 8th century, Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland. It sits on the on the Vistula River (which we crossed when in sightseeing in Warsaw). During WWII, Toruń was spared during bombing so many of the original buildings still stand. 

The Old Town Hall with Gothic architecture and Szeroka Street.

I love the signage.....227 meters to the pierogi shop and 35 meters to gingerbread shop.

After dinner, we walked down to the water, where we saw the city wall and the Brama Mostowa (the bridge gate) into the town.

Heading back to our hotel we saw the Old Town Hall illuminated and the statue of Nicolaus Copernicus in front of it. Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Toruń in 1473, he was a mathematician and astronomer, and is best known for his model of the universe that placed the Sun, not the Earth, at its center. Toruń is very proud of Copernicus.

Here's a map showing where we drove on our first day. 

Here's a photo of Julia Ann, Anthony, and their only son, Stanley, in the U.S. years later (using the Americanized spelling of their names). Stanley got his U.S. citizenship when he joined the military to fight in WWII. He was killed in Germany in 1945.