Iwanowice-My Grandmother’s Village

On an overcast Saturday, I met my cousin Halina in the Rynek and we took caught a bus right outside of Galeria Krakowska. Halina bought some pizza from the mall before we left, afraid that I wouldn’t like “village food.” We rode a quick 19 kilometers outside of the city to Iwanowice, the town where my grandmother grew up. Seeing this small Polish town 85 years later, I doubted Babcia would have recognized this place, due to all the new housing developments that were towering over the older, worn down properties that held more than a lifetime of memories in their crumbling walls.

As we left the main town, the landscape started to change into a lush countryside, with a moss colored stream that had carved itself into the moist earth, near the property where my grandmother had grown up on. I imagined this stream almost a century before, the source of endless entertainment for her and her siblings in the warm, summer days before the War. Nearby, there was a large field filled with grass that reached past my knees and on the hill beyond, there was the town’s church, where my grandmother used to have mass every Sunday. Beyond the church, high on yet another hill was the town cemetery, where the names of families, row after row of -ski’s and -ska’s appeared, and finally I saw my great -grandparents names carved in stone. It was such a humbling experience, to have the realization that there in front of me lay proof of my ancestors, of my own flesh and blood.

On our way back we stopped by my great-step aunt’s home and when I first saw her I immediately saw the resemblance to my grandmother in her eyes. It’s amazing how strangers become family in a moment, how even though I never met this woman, she embraced me as if she had known me her whole life.

That night we went back to Halina’s family home where she grew up and she made a simple, yet satisfying homemade meal of chicken soup and vegetables. Halina’s brother and her cousin joined us and there in the middle of Iwanowice, sharing a meal with family I hadn’t know until now, I felt strangely at home.