Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We're Off

Today we leave for Europe.

I've dreamed about visiting the Old Country since I was a small child, and particularly once I got into family history and thinking up stories behind the names. Now that we're finally almost on our way I'm not quite sure what I'll do once I get there. I don't intend to spend a lot of time doing "hard-core" genealogy work; we won't be visiting archives or even shtetl-hopping like we had planned a few years ago. Instead we're going to be balancing some tourist stuff with some history stuff and some family stuff. 

Our first stop will be Warsaw, where Abbot Yid's family lived. I'm not quite sure what we'll find there-- I know it's the capital and there should be some interesting history there, but since it was all demolished in the war and then rebuilt it's hard to know what to expect. There should definitely be some good museums and things, though. I haven't been able to go back farther than my g.g.grandparents in that line, so we have no idea if there were relatives there during the war years. It should be fun, but I'm not expecting too many personal connections there.

I'm very curious about seeing Czestochowa, where my mother's family is from. It's on the small size but very important to Polish culture as a pilgrimage site. It's also famous (or infamous) as being the area where cultist Jacob Frank was imprisoned, and I'm dying to see what I can dig up about him, including visiting the ancient castle and caves where his wife and son were buried and where his followers supposedly kept the pooled treasure of the community. Should be fun!

I've gotten a lot further with Mama Yid's family (or families, rather, since I've assembled research on about ten different major lines) thanks to some genealogical societies and have traced back to the 1770s, as well as down through the war years. I'm going with some addresses and lists of people who were living in the area then, just to see what we might find. I know a few relatives, including my g.g.g.grandfather, are in the town cemetery and I'm hoping to find their tombstones.

I've also made contact with some (checks chart...) fourth cousins who are descended from a relative who survived a labor camp and promptly went back to his town and has more or less stayed there ever since. I'm dying to meet him, but he may be too sick to visit so I'll settle for seeing his daughter and grandson.

From there we'll be heading to Krakow-- no genealogical angle here, but we are very much looking forward to seeing Kazimierz and getting a sense of what Jewish life was like there. We will also be visiting Auschwitz-- something I'm not sure I would do if it weren't for the fact that I have documentation about specific relatives that died there and so it's a personal and historical connection, not something I feel like I "should" do as a Jew, etc.

After that we will fly to London for a week. Ironically though we have more relatives in England (again, all Mama Yid's) it's unclear who will be available to see us, so that leg may wind up being more conventionally touristy.

I'm really looking forward to it. I'm a little nervous about logistics and the language barrier, and particularly about dietary issues (I've made English-Polish translation cards explaining my and Abbot Yid's allergies for wait staff at restaurants). I probably haven't prepared as much as I should have. I'm keeping my fingers crossed Mama Yid's pain issues stay under control and that living in close quarters with my parents for three weeks doesn't drive me batty. And incidentally, it will be the first time Mrs. Yid and I have been apart for that long in about four years, which will be strange and different.

But I'm also excited. It should be a lot of fun.

Here we go.

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