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Texas tourists find family ties; Trip to Poland offers history, entertainment
The Cloth Hall in Krakow offers excellent shopping for the visitors.
Elaine Mazurek Stephens
Special to the Wilson County NewsSeptember 12, 2012 7,181 views Post a comment
This is the second of two articles, based on a trip this summer for a group of tourists from Texas to Poland. In part I, the group, traveling with the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation, left Texas for Berlin, Germany, then through eastern Germany via bus to Silesia. After visits to a number of historical sites with links to the Poles who settled parts of Texas and a visit to a 400-year-old brewery where they were able to sample the wares, the tourists find more treats in store.
The trip enjoyment grew when several of the Silesian-Texans had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of meeting their distant relatives. In villages such as Wilanowa, close to Nysa, and Boronow, several of the travelers met for the first time their Polish families of Korzekwas, Wiatreks, and Banduchs. Similar discoveries occurred in Grodzisko for the Polloks and at Pluznica Wielka for the Feluxes, Moczygembas, Janyseks, and Jarzombeks. In Ujazd, a Mazurek family welcomed a Mazurek Texan. In Rozmierz, the Urbanczyk, Ploch, and Ciomperlik travelers met distant family, and in Zebowice, the Jendrusch and Lyssy Texans met descendants of their own ancestors who stayed in Poland during the 19th-century migrations.
It was moving to witness the introductions, such as when the Korzekwas from Texas met for the first time the Korzekwas from Silesia, and when the Ciomperliks from Texas were introduced to their Silesian relatives, unknown until now. For many, the discoveries were the unexpected and unforgettable high points of the trip.
In the village of Pluznica, the birthplace of Father Leopold Moczygemba, who led the 1850s Silesia-to-Texas migration, the travelers were greeted with flowers and blessings inside the small village church where the pastor, Father Stanisław Bober, is celebrating his 50-year anniversary of priestly ordination. Many Silesian Texans can trace their ancestry to this village.
The stay in Slawiecice included visiting the local church and a 60th birthday party for Father Frank’s brother, Gerard, who still lives there. The party was on the grounds of the new Hotel Hugo, with 200 friends. Sunday brought a concert of classical music and songs in St. Katarzyna Church, the parish in Slawiecice where Father Frank grew up and where his family still worships.
Throughout Silesia the group was surprised by short visits to village cemeteries, which look like botanical gardens, where they found familiar surnames on well-tended grave gardens. Flowers were also bright in the outdoor Muzeum Wsi Opolskiej, which replicates an 1850s Silesian village.
The final hotel stay was in legend-filled Krakow. On the way there, the group stopped in Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul II, pausing for moments in the town square as a memorial siren sounded a solemn reminder of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, setting the tone for the next stop, in Oswiecim, at the former Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
In Krakow, a tight-security tour of the once-war-torn and now majestic Wawel Castle preceded shopping inside the Cloth Hall in the main square, where many small shops line the historic building. Back on the bus, the travelers were soon at Lagiewniki to visit the Basilica of the Divine Mercy, ending the day with a visit to the underground salt mine in Wieliczka where vast rooms, glowing salt sculptures, and endless tunnels captivate visitors.
The last meal of Polish food was prepared at a nearby restaurant where a special guest, the vice consul of the American Consulate in Krakow, addressed and welcomed the group.
Concluding the evening and days of discovering Silesia, the travelers shared their impressions and experiences of the trip, which included sincere words of thanks and gratitude for the discoveries and memories which will continue to connect families, countries, and hearts.
Another trip is being planned for June 25 through July 8, 2013. Those interested travelers may call Father Frank at 210-733-7152.
For more information about the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation, visit www.FLMFoundation.org and www.SilesianTexans.com.
Elaine Mazurek Stephens is of Polish descent. She is a La Vernia resident, member of the Greater La Vernia Chamber of Commerce, and the president of the La Vernia Historical Association.
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