While I was traveling through Europe, I passed through Poland, the birthplace and childhood home of my now deceased maternal grandparents. On a whim and with only two names and an address 10 years outdated, I decided I would attempt to track down relatives that my family had informed me existed but with whom they had lost contact with many years ago.
I maintained a dim hope that I could be reconnected with relatives and traverse the language and cultural barriers. When I told my story to the Polish strangers I met when I arrived in Poland, I received an overwhelming response. There were numerous occasions in which I was moved nearly to tears by the generosity and help from complete strangers.
Address in hand, I traveled several hours by minibus to a small village outside of Krakow. Finally locating the sole narrow road to the village, I found myself wandering among the cottages that comprised the woodland village. Uncertain of the address I sought, I knocked on the door of a house that appearing presently occupied. A middle-aged woman answered the door. Quickly, we realized the hurdle between us. The woman did not speak English. I did not speak Polish. I showed her the name of the person I was looking for. She asked me to wait and after several phone calls came back shaking her head. From her pantomimes, I know that the person I was looking for had since passed away. We both stood in silence for a moment. My face was painted with disappointment and I turned to shuffle away. I glanced up at the woman and she grabbed the piece of paper from my hand. Pointing at another name of a relative I had written on the paper, the woman led me inside.
I sat at the kitchen table with the woman’s elderly mother, who had a striking resemblance to my own Polish grandmother. After graciously accepting some tea, I sat in silence and witnessed the woman make phone calls in Polish wondering whom she was speaking with and what they were discussing.
Nearly an hour later, she looked at me with a huge grin. She now had two phones in her hand, and was having two simultaneous conversations. She was talking in Polish and handed me one of the receivers. I heard a voice say in English, “Hello, I am Maria’s son. My mother has told me that she has found your relatives. Write down your phone number and she will have them contact you with the help of a translator.” I was ecstatic.
With the translation assistance of her son, I learned that the woman had offered me to stay for a night at her home so I could rest after my journey. After I politely turned down the offer, she insisted on driving me back to the station so I could catch my bus. A tear slid down my face as I exited her car. “Dziekuje,” I said. Thank you.
Submitted by Anonymous
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