My mom was visiting during Fall Break this year, so we decided to take her to a place she’d always wanted to go. Poland! My mom’s parents were born in Poland. She grew up in The Back of the Yards, a Polish neighborhood Chicago, surrounded by immigrants, all finding their way in their new life in America. My mom’s connection to her Polish roots run strong, and she’s always, always wanted to go to Poland to learn more about where her parents came from. So, it was decided. Off we flew to Berlin. Upon landing we were picked up by our cousins Tomek and Marek. We knew Tomek from his visits to Chicago, but this was the first time we had met Marek. They gave us a quick tour of Berlin, which was a thrill. Seeing the Berlin Wall and crossing from East to West Berlin was pretty cool, I must say. Then, we were off to cross the border into Poland, and the long drive onto Poznan.
We arrived at night, but in the morning I was so surprised by how beautiful it was! The main square, called the Stary Rynek is gorgeous. So colorful! We spent lots of time shopping and popping into restaurants for pierogi and potato pancakes. We LOVED our hotel, the Palazzo Rosso. It was a cool, old hotel with a great Polish breakfast in the cellar.
Tomek and Marek showed my mom where her parents were born, and they visited graves of relatives who helped my grandparents makes the journey to America in the 40s. We caught up with Biata, a cousin who visited us when I was much younger, and who I remember thinking was the most beautiful, glamorous, and stylish girl I had ever met. She and her parents had us for tea in their home, and she took us on a tour of Poznan. My kids stood wide-eyed as she recounted what life was like before the Iron Curtain fell and how her father, Matchi, was imprisoned during the Cold War for owning a business and not allowing the government to control it. It was a real life history lesson told by someone who actually lived it. What a gift.
Soon, it was time to leave Poznan and head south, to Krakow. But this visit was special. Seeing my mom reconnected with her roots will stay with me for all of my days.