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.




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



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 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:

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: 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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Battle of Grunwald

Today, July 15, 2014, marks 604 years since the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. It was at this battle that the combined forces of the Kingdom Poland and the Duchy of Lithuania once and for all decisively defeated the German Teutonic Knights. Their crushing defeat resulting in the Peace of Toruń (1411) and finally the Peace of Melno (1422), but this battle effectively “broke the backs” of these unwelcome “visitors” and it marked the rise of the Polish–Lithuanian union as the dominant political and military force in central and Eastern Europe.

Though long gone from Poland, the Teutonic Knights left behind a “wonder” of Poland that is not to be missed, Malbork Castle, the largest brick castle in Europe. I was fortunate to visit Malbork on my first tour of Poland, and I posted some of my photos from that tour. It is a fascinating place.

But never forget the events of 604 years ago when Poland emerged as a dominant power in Central/Eastern Europe.

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On this day in Polish history…. June 27th

June 27th is a significant day in Polish history for two events that happened on this day, 48 years apart, in 1581 and in 1629. Both events are a source of great pride for all of us who are of Polish descent.

27 June 1581 — On this day in Mogilev, Russia, occurred one of the most lopsided battles in history. A force of about 1000 Polish troops including 200 elite Polish hussars (Cavalry) prevented a 30,000+ strong Tatar/Russian army from storming the city for seven hours. When 300 cavalry came in the aid of the hussars, along with villagers, the combined Polish force chased the enemy away, a total route. Later that year, Polish King Stephen Bathory invaded Muscovy and laid siege to the city of Pskov.

27 June 1629 — On this day occurred what is known as the Battle of Trzyciana. In short summary, the twice-larger forces of King Gustav II Adolf, by many historians considered to have been one of the most outstanding military leaders in history, was routed by the much smaller sized force let by Polish Hetman (military leader) Stanisław Koniecpolski, considered to be one of the greatest military leaders of the all time for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Their success in this battle effectively ended this particular religiously driven attempt by protestant Sweden to invade Europe. The battle was a stunning victory for Poland and her allies.

And now you know the rest of the story!

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Wolność — Freedom

As I write this, it is June 5th, what I’ll call a ‘tween day. It is the day between two historically significant days in the history of Poland.

On June 4, 1989, the Third Republic of Poland rose from the shadows of communism and 40-some years of Soviet domination. On June 4th 2014, Poland celebrated 25 years of freedom. At last, real freedom.

Poland25YearThe road to freedom for the Third Republic of Poland was a difficult one, but it came as all Poles knew it would one day. In some sense, that road to freedom began in earnest with the event we will celebrate tomorrow, June 6th–the 70th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy in World War II. Some Polish troops participated in the invasion of Normandy, but even more were involved in many other aspects of World War II, from pilot who helped defend Britain during the Battle of Britain Bombardment, to the soldiers who finally captured Monte Cassino in Italy 70 years ago this May.

But, it’s not a time to dwell on war and it’s aftermath, not a time to dwell on the sad fate of post-war Poland, handed over as a prize to the Soviets, not the time to dwell on the past. Today is a day to look at the accomplishments of Poland, at one time in history the largest and most powerful nation in Europe. And today, Poland again stands strong and proud. Not only the people of Poland, but all people of Polish descent, and all people who love freedom have something to be proud of today, the fact that freedom does win. Poland is a living example. Happy 25th!

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