So, in one of my previous blogs (which you can find here: January Mitchell Blogs , and scrolling down until you see “Shoutout to Papa”) I tell a bit of the life story of one of my biggest heroes, my grandfather, affectionately known to pretty much everyone as “Papa”.
Papa was born in a little village in northeastern Poland called Plociczno sometime in November 1935. He lived under Nazi occupation from 1939-1944, until his family was forced to flee their home in the middle of the night to avoid an advancing Soviet army (his father had been a leader in the failed 1917 Ukrainian War of Independence, and would have been executed by any Soviet forces). After being forced to work in a German labor camp until the end of the war, Papa and his family slowly made their way across Europe and then to the United States, where Papa would become an All-American soccer player, meet my Gramma, and eventually become the greatest grandfather of all time.
Anyway, in my prior blog, I talk about a conversation I had with Papa where he showed me Plociczno on google maps, told me stories about life under Nazi occupation, and mentioned that he had never returned to the village he was forced to flee 72 years ago. I then promised Papa that I would go visit Plociczno for him, and he could see it through my pictures and videos. We both thought that was pretty cool.
And then I did it!!!!!
With the help of some extended relatives, I managed to get the email address of my great-grandmother’s sister’s granddaughter Monika Prokopczyk, still living in the nearby town of Suwalki. And on April 27th, after a two hour bus ride to Dublin, three hour flight to Warsaw, and six hour bus to Suwalki, I got to meet my incredibly kind and loving family in Poland for the first time.
Meeting my family in Poland for the first time!
This is a picture of me as a baby that my Polish relatives had in a photo album in their living room. Two months ago I didn’t know I had relatives in Poland.
The next day we took a trip out to Plociczno, and after talking with the man who currently lives there, I got to walk through the house Papa used to live in.
Standing outside Papa’s home!! I am very thankful North Carolina does not snow in late April
For the first time in months I got to eat real-people sized food. I must be Polish!!
Even disregarding how awesome it is to meet long-lost relatives in a far-away country, I am truly blessed to have had this experience. With some help from my lovely personal videographer for the weekend, Rachel Green (thanks Rach!), we got a lot really great video of Plociczno, and we even got each family member to introduce themselves and give a short message to Papa in Polish. I should be able to turn it into a pretty sweet montage, and I think it will make a fitting Christmas present for the greatest Papa ever.
Anyway, I don’t want to end my last blog from Ireland by talking about Poland (though I had to spend most of my blog talking about it simply because it was SO COOL). I am truly thankful for the year I have had here in Ireland, though I can’t believe it’s already over. The friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had will last me for a lifetime, and I am beyond grateful that I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Mitchell Scholars program. And, as all truly great blogs must end: go heels!!!