Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Holiday in Kashubia

As much as I’ve enjoyed my three previous trips to Kashubia, my fourth trip has been simply amazing. The adventure began on the afternoon of Friday, July 5, when my guide and dear friend Malgorzata Mazur picked me up at the Gdansk airport and called us a cab into town. She very graciously kept me awake and walking around until 6 pm, when I checked in to the Mercure Hevelius Hotel for a good night’s sleep. Thanks to my “Kashubian family” - Malgorzata, her husband Eddie, and Eddie’s cousin Edmund Zielke - I was in for a hectic but inspiring week of sightseeing and meeting other Kashubians.

Saturday, July 6 was the day of the XV World Meeting of Kashubians in Wladyslawowo. The streets of this resort city on the Baltic Sea were packed with delegations from every region of Kashubia and even one from Canada. Several people asked me why there was no delegation of Kashubians from Winona. I promised I would try to do something about this! Sunday, July 7 was a day of rest until Malgorzata, Eddie, and I took a ferry to Sopot, which is a resort town on the Baltic Sea between the ports of Gdansk and Gdynia. We enjoyed coffee on the longest wooden pier in Poland and then a wonderful fresh fish dinner at one of the many restaurants along the beach.

On Monday, July 8, Malgorzata, Eddie and I visited the library at Gdansk’s branch of the Polish Academy of Sciences. There Dr. Maria Otto, who is affiliated with both the Academy of Sciences and the University of Gdansk, showed us several very rare print editions of ancient classics and some original works by Gdansk’s own great astronomer, Jan Heveliusz. We then visited the Polish Academy of Science’s map library, where we viewed maps of Kashubia made from the 16th century to today. Malgorzata and I spent Tuesday, July 9 on a trip to Torun, three hours away, where we wandered through this beautifully preserved Gothic town and visited sites associated with the other great Polish astronomer, Mikolaj Copernicus. On Wednesday, July 10 we visited the newly restored fortress and watchtower built in the 16th century to guard the mouth of the Vistula River.

Thursday, July 11 was my birthday – the high point of the whole trip. With Edmund as our chauffeur, we drove out to visit the great historian of Kashubian America, Fr. Wladyslaw Szulist, in his Lipusz flat. Fr. Wladyslaw graciously welcomed us with an elaborate lunch, and joined us in a chocolate birthday cake. He then guided us to Szwedzki Ostrow, the beautiful little settlement where my great-great grandfather Franciszek Pelowski was born in 1829. After returning Fr. Wladyslaw to his flat, we visited Bytow. There we had the chance to meet three people well known to Winona: Mayor Ryszard Sylka, Council Chair Leszek Wichiewicz, and Ms. Joanna Malek. Our meeting went well past the hour they carved out of their busy schedule for us – it was literally too much fun! Friday, July 12 was a day of rest – for me, at least. After her morning tour group, Malgorzata took me to see the remains of the massive Prussian fortifications still to be found around Gdansk.

On Saturday, July 13 Malgorzata and I visited the Faktoria in Pruszcz Gdanski, just south of Gdansk: a reconstructed trading post where Romans came to buy amber from the local Goths. We also had a guided tour of the museum from Ms. Agata Kierunska and an opportunity to try some “ancient” food prepared fresh on the site over open fires. We then met up with Eddie and their son Kamil, and took a taxi to Warzno, where the Kashubian-Pomeranian Organization’s Karczemki chapter was ready to celebrate the birthday of its only American member. As president of the Karczemski chapter, Cousin Edmund made sure that everyone had a great time – complete with food and drink, dancing and singing, and an extremely rare Kashubian picture book given me as a present. Sadly, I had to leave early. Sunday, July 14 brought a 4:00 am wakeup call for a 6:40 flight back home – home to the United States, that is.

Proud as I am to be an American, this trip has made it clear to me that Kashubia is no longer just a place I visit whenever I can. It is my second home. All of the Kashubians I met during my trip were very interested to meet a real live Kashubian American, and were just as interested to hear about the Kashubian community of Winona. Together with my ever growing Kashubian family, I encourage everyone who reads this to come and visit Kashubia for yourself. The land is beautiful and the people are incredibly welcoming. Arranging for flights and accommodation is less expensive and less of a hassle than one might imagine. And the memories will be priceless. I have already promised to return for next July’s XVI World Kashubian Meeting in Pruszcz Gdanski. Might you be interested in joining me there?

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