Not Your Grandma’s Pączki

I love to make my own pączki, much like my mother still does, and the way her mother did, and was taught by her mother’s mother. You get what I’m saying, right? There is a long family tradition here. And they are the best. But two people can only eat so many pączki, so I bought some at my local grocery store this year. Then I decided to take a good look at the ingredients and compare with my Mother’s and my Babcia’s (grandma’s) recipe:

paczkiWhich one do you prefer? Which one do you think tastes better?

Case closed!

 

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Tłusty Czwartek — Fat Thursday

Today is Fat Thursday in Poland, Tłysty Czwartek in Polish. As the Christmas season and the following Karniwal come to an end and the season penitence, fast and abstinence–Lent–approaches, Poles take a bit of a time out to indulge in a favorite food on this day–pączki. What is a pączek (singular for the plural, pączki)? It is a yeast-raised donut, usually sugared and stuffed with something yummy. In Poland today, people line up at their favorite bakery and buy them by the dozens. Millions upon millions of pączki will be sold today in Poland–and eaten.

I am fortunate. Here in Central Florida, each year, Publix sells pączki at this time of year.

Paczki01

Inside this package is a bit of supreme goodness. Pictured below are the last moments of the pączek i devoured just a moment ago:

Paczki03

A glazed and sugared, raspberry-stuffed yeast donut, gently fried and packaged just for my eating pleasure–and I did take great pleasure in its demise. Good thing they come four to a package.

So, why not join millions of Poles in Poland and around the world this Tłusty Czwartek–Fat Thursday–and enjoy some delicious pączki. I found mine at Publix in the deli/bakery section:

Paczki02

Smacznego!

Want to learn more about Fat Thursday? Check this out: http://polska.pl/en/experience-poland/cuisine/fat-thursday-not-always-on-a-sweet-note/

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Stalin’s Deportations Began 75 Years Ago Today

75 Years ago today, on February 10, 1940, Stalin and his NDVD (Secret Police) began the mass deportation of Polish Citizens to Siberia. Beginning in 1940 and continuing into 1941, somewhere between 300,000 and 1,500,000 Poles were  evicted from their homes and forcibly relocated to Siberia. This action took place in about four waves of action. Many never returned.

You can more about the Soviet deportations of Polish citizens at the Kresy-Siberia Foundation, but caution, it is a sad story: http://kresy-siberia.org/muzeum/?lang=en.

A number of books have been written about these dark and sad days in history. You can find a few of them here:

– Maps and Shadows, by Krysia Jopek, available here:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1607720086/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_SmL2ub16KCAKD
– The Ice Road, by Stefan Waydenfeld, available here:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1607720035/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_fmL2ub16HDN4C

It is not a pretty story, and a story that has been mostly buried in history. You see, once the Germans turned on the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin became an Ally of the western powers. Unwilling to anger Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt quietly buried, hid, and ignored the terrible crimes committed against the citizens of their ally, Poland. To this day, this sad story remains basically unknown outside of Poland.

 

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St. Stanislaus RC Church in Tarnoruda, Ukraine

When I visited my cousins in Ukraine, we were fortunate to visit the church where my great-grandfather and his parents would have attended, St. Stanislaus in Tarnoruda. After World War II most of the Poles in the area (including some of my family) were “relocated” to Poland and as a result there are few Polish (and thus few Roman Catholic) people left in the area. However, we were fortunate to find the caretaker and visit the church.  I wrote about it previously, and that post has a link to the pictures I took.

However, I recently came across some pictures of this church on the Internet. Here is one of them:

St.Stanislaus.TarnorudaBut on top of that, I recently found some pictures on the Internet from a church procession in Tarnoruda in 1929. You can look them up for yourself, but here they are as well: Tarnoruda02 Tarnoruda01

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Roman Catholic Church in Łuka Mała

When I visited the home of my ancestors in 2011 in what is now Ukraine, we briefly visited the town of Łuka Mała, also called Mała Łuka. Our goal was to see the Greek-Catholic Church where my great-grandmother had been baptized in 1886. On our way there, we passed a former Roman Catholic Church. The church had been built about 1918. At that period in history, Poland had just risen from the ashes of World War I again as a once-again independent nation after well over 100 years of partition. This part of the world was heavily Ukrainian (Ruthenian) though a big mix of Poles lived there as well. Most likely the church was built as Poland attempted to Polonize the area after “regaining” that territory after World War I. But after World War II, the borders shifted yet again and this area became the Ukrainian SSR. All Poles (including some of my family) were forced to leave and relocate to Poland. Only Ukrainians (also including some of my family) were allowed to remain. And so this Polish Roman Catholic Church was more or less abandoned. Today it is in essence a barn, a storage shed as you can see in this picture.

Luka01

 

 

But here’s a picture of it when it was being builts, somewhere shortly after 1918.

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And another picture, this one when it was in use, between 1918 and 1937

PIC_1-U-3946a It sure looks different today…. Now it’s got “wings”–more sheds on the side.

LukaMala04And it suffers from age, and is in need of repair.

LukaMala03But it was once a Roman Catholic Church, and you can still see that glory in the building today….

LukaMala02I was fortunate, I got to see this building. The historic photos above (black and white) are from http://audiovis.nac.gov.pl/. Search for “Łuka Mała.”

You can find this church on Google Maps here.

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2014 Pierogi Party

Leon and Ewa’s 10th Annual Pierogi Party is now history! This year about 30 of us gathered and made about 433 pierogi, and consumed well over 1/4 of them as well. Now that the party is history, I’ve posted a “few” pictures from it. You can see them here: http://photos.leonkonieczny.com/2014%20Pierogi%20Party/.

A special thanks to all who attended, both old and new friends. We had a blast!

Thanks again from Leon and Ewa, as well as our elves, Tommy and Joe.

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I am in Poland every day of the week–yet at home in Florida, USA

I am totally blessed. You see, I get to spend some time in Poland every day of the week, and from the luxury of my home office in sunny Florida, USA. How do I do it? It’s easy, it’s called the Internet!  I am Facebook friends with a few people with ties to Poland, but much more so, I follow various Polish Facebook groups. This morning if got on Facebook only to discover a wonderful video from Kazimierz Dolny, a city I visited in 2010. But now I got to see the bird’s eye view, and got to see the castle ruins which were closed when I was there.

Every day when I check out Facebook, I find news and information and pictures about and from Poland. Often times they take me back to my visits there, and they always make me long to visit again. Yes, my heart truly is in Poland and i long to return again and again and again. But luckily through the modern miracle of the Internet, with Facebook and various web sites, i can wander the streets of Kraków one minute, see Kazimierz Dolny from the air another minute, and peruse a 150-year-old map of Galicia–where some of my ancestors lived–the next minute. It is wonderful. But it often brings two tears to my eyes. The first tear, for the memory of what I’ve already seen and experience. And the second tear, the longing to return again, to visit Poland and the Kresy (borderlands) to see and experience even more…..

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Battle of Vienna

It’s simple: on this day in history, September 12th, 1683, Europe and Christendom was saved from the Turk (Ottoman Empire) at the Battle of Vienna, led by Poland’s King Jan Sobieski III. Later proclaimed the “savior of christendom” by Pope Innocent XI, Sobieski led a coalition of German and Polish forces numbering around 100,000 against the Ottoman forces estimated at up to 300,000 who had besieged Vienna for months. In a series of strategic and decisive moves and battles, the combined Polish forces routed the Turks and sent them fleeing. Historians in general agree that this decisive battle ended nearly 300 years of Turkish contention for Christian Europe. To read details of the battle and the events leading up to it, read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vienna. If you’d like to know more about Jan Sobieski III, arguably one of the greatest kings of Poland and perhaps the most brilliant military commander of all time, I highly recommend you read the book Jan Sobieski: The King who Saved Europe by Militiades Varvounis–it is a wonderful biography of one of the greats of history and well worth your time. But on this day in history, September 12th, , 1683, the course of modern history was decisively change, due in large part to Poland, her army, and the leadership of one of her greatest Kings, Jan Sobieski III. Never forget!

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Book Review: Push Not the River

Push Not the River, by James Conroyd Martin, is a historic, romantic novel written somewhat in the grand tradition of Doctor Zhivago or Gone With the Wind. To call it “fiction” would do it no justice at all–it is set in late 18th Century Poland, in the years including the 3rd of May Constitution and leading up to the third partition of Poland in 1792. But it is also based on deeper history and true story, on the unpublished memoir of Anna Maria Berezowska.

In a sense, it is a grand novel of romance and intrigue, but on a deeper level, it provides a sense of the place of strong women in the history of Poland. Indeed, during the 125 years of the partition (and non-existence as a country) of Poland, it was in large part the matriarchy that kept alive the sense of Polish nationalism and pride which allowed Poland to emerge from World War I as a sovereign nation. Historic figures such as Tadeusz Kościuszko, (the last King) Stanisław August Poniatowski, and Russian Empress Catherine are woven throughout the fabric of this story, but it is the strong character of Anna and Zofia (cousins, but often at secret odds with each other), the main characters, that bring the story to life, woven around their trials and tribulations. The story is honest which makes it stark and tragic at times. Twists and turns of the storyline will keep you entertained and guessing. It’s not all pretty, it’s not all happy, but all along, you will learn a bit about late 18th century Polish culture, society, and politics–the good and the bad.

This is a heartwarming book and–good news–only the first in a trilogy of books Martin has written. I cannot wait to read the next two. This book kept me engrossed every bit of the way. I was impressed with how historical fact was interwoven seamlessly with the plot. The characters were wonderfully developed and seemed to leap off the page at me–I could almost see and feel and hear them and I felt totally drawn into the storyline, almost as if I was there, silently watching every event, every emotion, listening to every conversation.

I would heartily recommend this book on many levels. I’d previously given it as a Christmas gift to one of my sisters, and she dutifully passed it on to the others and to my sister-in-law–they all absolutely loved it (and the sequel too, which I plan to read soon). If you like romance, if you appreciate the place that strong woman have played in the course of history, and/or if you are interested (as I certainly am) in all things Polish, then you will absolutely love this novel. Once I started it, I had a hard time putting it down. It has my highest recommendation. I hope you love it, too! And by the way, it is available on Kindle, too–that’s how I read it!

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70 Years Ago Today

70 years ago today, at 5 PM local time, the Warsaw Uprising began. After 5 long years of Nazi occupation, having suffered the devastating loss of the whole Jewish Population, having suffered the loss of many Polish lives with countless others taken away as slave labor, and with the Russians (Soviet Army) just across the river, the remaining Polish people of Warsaw rose up against the Nazis. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, they held the huge German army at bay for two months. Help from the Russians never came–they were content to watch the Nazis slaughter the Poles. Help from the Allies never came either–Stalin would not allow American and British planes to use Russian bases to refuel. To his defence, Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Roosevelt, to no avail. The people of Warsaw fought on–alone in the world.

It did not end well. When the Warsaw Uprising finally ended nearly two months later, 12,000 Polish soldiers/fighters were dead, and 150,000 to 200,000 citizens were dead, many through Nazi mass executions. 25% of the city was in ruins. But that was just the beginning. Furious that the Poles resisted (and that they were so successful at it), Hitler ordered the city leveled. the remaining 700,000 or so Poles were expelled and the city was leveled, block by block. At the end of the war, no more than 1000 or so people were left in the once grand city.

And so today, at 5 PM, in Warsaw, for one minute, horns and sirens will sound, and all people will stop for a minute and remember what started 70 years ago. They stand today in one of the largest cities of Europe with a population of 1.7 million, the bustling a vibrant, totally rebuilt, capital of Poland, a triumph of freedom and human will–today Poland stand proud as a free country, but does not forget what happened 70 years ago today, nor the fact that Russia and the allies stood idly by and did nothing.  Pamiętamy! 

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