Auschwitz–what a way to spend Palm Sunday

As my visit to Krakow winds down, I finally made the trek to Auschwitz. Aleksander, my host, had warned me that Auschwitz was disturbing. He was right.

Main building upon approach to Auschwitz

Main building upon approach to Auschwitz

I had to take a bus from Krakow to Auschwitz. The ride took about seventy-five minutes and cost the equivalent of, you guessed it, four dollars. The bus was not quite sold out. Because I had gotten up to grab the early bus after only three hours’ sleep, I attempted to catch a snooze before arrival.

We pulled into a large parking lot full of tour buses. I couldn’t get over the irony of several thousand tourists per day filing through a human extermination camp. While it seems almost like a form of gallows humor, it is also encouraging to know that people want to be informed about one of the most heinous acts of barbarism in the history of mankind. Continue reading


Finished with the genealogy in Warsaw, Poland is winding down

Well, Wednesday came and all I was able to do was go in and put in a request for the records I wanted. The archivist told me to come back on Thursday to view them. That left me at loose ends on Wednesday.

Since I had been to Warsaw previously, I pretty much knew what was around and it wasn’t much. Most of Warsaw was bombed to bits in the war so there is very little that is historical or architecturally significant. So, I just wandered the neighborhoods, had lunch in an underground Irish pub. Visited a mall. A MALL, people! Watched movies on my laptop. It was a bit of a wasted day. Continue reading

On the road again—this time, back in Warsaw

<Note: This posting should have been made a couple of days ago but my internet service was spotty.>

The night before this bus trip to Warsaw, I was a bit concerned. Aleksander, my host, had purchased my round trip bus tickets online. Receipts were supposed to be automatically emailed to me for the trip this morning.

Two hours after purchasing the tickets, the emails hadn’t arrived. Aleksander was getting a bit miffed, as was I. He called the tour company, Lux Express out of Estonia, to complain and press for the urgency of emails. By the time I went to bed at 1:00 a.m., the emails still hadn’t arrived. My bus was departing at 9:50 a.m. Continue reading

Two more days of genealogy research in Krakow before Warsaw. Until then, fun!

Thursday and Friday were both busts for me here in Krakow. The archive was closed both days, preventing me from doing anything of substance. However, it will reopen tomorrow so I will try to make up for lost time on Monday and Tuesday.

Tuesday, after finishing my research, I will hop a bus for Warsaw. I’ve found a small apartment for $32/night plus the Airbnb fee. I’ll have it all to myself. It is close to everything. Public transit in Europe is so easy and so ubiquitous that, even if it weren’t close to anything, I could still get anywhere in 10-15 minutes. Continue reading

Genealogy research roadblock–Bremen, Germany

I knew eventually I would hit a roadblock. That roadblock occurred today as I attempted to find more information about my grandfather’s emigration to Canada. the only information I have is regarding his arrival date–1912. That’s it. I don’t know when he arrived and I don’t have the name of his ship. I don’t know when he left Europe and I don’t have his port of departure from the mainland to England from where he would ultimately depart for North America.

I am assuming he left out of Bremen, Germany as that was the primary point of departure for European immigrants to North America. Hamburg was used by immigrants, but very few. I knew that records had been carefully kept for decades. Unfortunately, thousands of documents were destroyed when room became scarce in Bremen archives around 1908. Several thousand records from 1920-1939 were found and saved, but everything else was lost in WWII. They were kept in salt mines and transferred to Moscow in 1942. Between 1987 and 1992, the records were returned to Bremen. Continue reading

Poland archives–is genealogy supposed to be this easy to find??

Another day, another batch of exciting information.

I just wish that this archive office stayed open later. Its hours are 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Try as I might, I just cannot get up very early. Every night I’m wiped out, yet it takes forever to fall asleep. Is it caffeine in my system? Is it the emotion of what I’m experiencing? Am I just an old fart? Perhaps a combination of all three?

No matter. At least I’m finding info. Of course, I could be finding more each day if I spent more time at the archives. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for what I do find. Continue reading

Europe–genealogy search in Poland

I’m really tired of the “Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy…” title. I think it’s now become misleading. I’m not really now pursuing such a thing. As of this writing and those of the last few days, I’m in Poland doing genealogical research. As the months tick by before my return to North America, my presence here will be less of an “expatriate life” and more of, say, an “expatriate experience“?

I’ve been having fits with internet here in Poland. I suppose it was too much to expect the good wifi access to remain. I’m now sitting in a McDonald’s (yes, I said MCDONALD’S) because I can be certain of good wifi. I know, Mickey D’s sucks the bag, but at least wifi is available. It’s worth the occasional Quarter Pounder gut bomb. Continue reading

Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy–Poland Trzynaście

I really have to make a concerted effort to get to sleep earlier. Every night I’m falling asleep around 2-3 a.m. Did the same thing last night and paid the price today.

I found one of the archives that my host, Aleksander, pointed out online. After visiting this particular office, I found out that it does not have information I need. The ladies in the office also indicated (as did Aleksander) that I would need to visit Warsaw or the archive in a small Polish town near the Ukrainian border. They then gave me directions to another archive from the Catholic archdiocese here in Krakow. Well, I went there and found out that it had closed at 2:00 p.m. Since I had slept in until about 11:30, I had screwed up my timing. I could have checked it out had I gone to sleep sooner. A day lost, needlessly. Continue reading

Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy–Poland Dwanaście

I’ve changed my heading yet again. Today I thought to myself, “Why am I using a French word to describe my next Polish posting??? So, I’ve switched from French to Polish. The previous postings will remain French. Why? Because that’s how they were originally written. I want everything to be authentic, as it were.

Today I was going to hit Auschwitz, but I was too exhausted. I slept in really late, as usual because I was up really late, as usual. Bopped around the town and took a video of the Main Market Square. Tonight I attended a concert in St. Peter and Paul Church a few hundred yards south of Main Market Square. Of course, the church was breathtaking inside. It opened in 1619 and is beautifully appointed.  Continue reading

Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy–Poland Onze

Seeking genealogy is a very frustrating endeavor. It seems that there’s always a new wrinkle in this pursuit. A couple of them have me concerned. Both are big.

The first is the surnames that I have. I have two different surnames for my maternal grandmother. One looks more like an abbreviation of the other. For my maternal grandfather, the name doesn’t seem to resemble anything that anyone can figure out. It is quite possible that the name is also an abbreviated form of something else.  Continue reading