Climbing The Family Tree

By Jane Mountain | June 15, 2013

We are in Łosie, the village where Stephen’s great-grandfather met his great-grandmother, fell in love (presumably), got married and had a baby boy who would become Stephen’s grandfather. The tree from which Stephen sprouted is extensive, involving many branches with different names, nationalities, second marriages, and other complexities. I am thoroughly confused.

one of stephen's ancestors

Definitely a Stephen predecessor, and also Stephen’s next haircut.

This morning we paid a visit to Stephen’s grandfather’s half-brother’s grandson, Zenon. He knows a LOT about the part of the family that stayed in Poland while others emigrated to Canada. He does not speak any English.

Over tea and snacks, we mostly listened as Malcolm (Stephen’s Dad) and Zenon used a mixture of phrase books, hand language, and the written word to try and sort out who was who in old photos and on the family tree. There weren’t even any fancy translation apps involved, because there was no WiFi.

two men looking over records

Malcolm and Zenon poring over records.

It’s fun to try to communicate without a common language. But it’s also exhausting.

Happy Homemaker

When Zenon offered us tea, we happily accepted. He put the kettle on, and then motioned to me. He made it clear that it would be my duty to make the tea for everyone. I thought this was just because he was busy sorting through pictures and details with Malcolm. A little later, he offered us some ice cream and when we again accepted, he brought out an ice cream log, opened it up, and sliced the first slice. Once again, it was clearly my role to dole out the ice cream to everyone.

He did make his apologies (in Polish) saying he was sorry, but he was on his own this weekend, as his wife was at home in Lublin.

I served the ice cream, Zenon added the booze.

I served the ice cream, Zenon added the booze.

I suppose it’s nice to know that tradition is alive and well in certain parts of the world, though I suspect the younger generation might not work in the same way.

By the time we’d gone out for lunch, seen the local lake and quarry, and visited the village graveyard to seek out Stephen’s ancestors, we were all exhausted.

Stephen doing EPK planking at the local quarry.

Stephen doing EPK planking at the local quarry.

Thankfully, we have a local guesthouse in which to hang our hats and break our bread. Sorry for the idioms, but after a few days of talking with non-native speakers, it’s nice to let a few complex phrases roll off the tongue.

As with almost everywhere we’ve been since we entered Eastern Europe, the WiFi is excellent here, so we spent the afternoon getting things done.

One of the big tasks over the next few days will be to re-plot our course now that Russia is probably a no go. Will we actually get to go to Ukraine and Romania? Will we still visit Berlin? Will we just say goodbye to Europe and head straight for Asia?

We’ll let you know as soon as we decide.  

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