Warsaw, Poland April 11th-15th 2010

Relaxation, appreciation for our ancestral roots (Steve and I are both 50% Polish descent), and some great Polish cooking was what our family had in mind when we planned to spend our kid’s Spring Break in Warsaw, Poland. We could never have imagined the reality of arriving in a nation of grieving citizens.

Bookstore Memorial
Bookstore Memorial
The President and First Lady of Poland were killed, along with scores of members of the Polish government, in a disastrous flight between Warsaw and Smolensk, Russia. You can find the details in the news if you haven’t already heard them. What I want to share with you is what we witnessed and how, in the midst of such sorrow, my family was able to bring back some hope and faith with us to Moscow.

I was proud of the fact that after landing, we took the city bus from the airport to the plaza nearest our hotel. No 40 Zloty fee for us; our bus tickets were a total of 8 Zloty. We clicked along the sidewalk the three city blocks like the seasoned travelers we are. But then at exactly 12 Noon, there was a deafening silence, then cacophony of sirens, church bells, cars honking. It was an entire minute of grieving. Everyone on the street stopped. Bus drivers and cab riders beeped their horns. It was a collective cry of sorrow and pain.

Glimpse of Old Town Warsaw
Glimpse of Old Town Warsaw
We checked in, and told each hotel worker that we met that we were so sorry for their loss. Even if they only spoke Polish I had the feeling they understood our heartfelt condolences.

Chopin Museum--Closed
Chopin Museum–Closed
Our main goal of this trip quickly morphed into taking it day by day and relaxing as much as possible. Our life in Moscow is very full, for each member of our family individually and for us as a family, too. Anytime we can sleep in and have a buffet breakfast waiting for us is a huge treat. I really got used to the lounge treats at cocktail time. Because this is still considered off-season I found a great deal for us online, and we did indeed take advantage of it.

A Willow Waking Up to Spring
A Willow Waking Up to Spring
Our touring the first day seemed as normal as it could be in a nation with black ribbons on all her flags. I enjoyed the Polish National Museum and seeing the single Botticelli painting. There was a display of majolica ceramics that brought back fond memories of our life in Italy. The church artwork was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe so many of the wood sculptures were nearly 600 years old–they rivaled any modern work I’ve seen in any church, anywhere.

At night we tried to go out to dinner but were met by a procession of Poles with lit candles who were walking to the Presidential Palace to pay their respects and be together. It was awe-inspiring to see so many faces, young and old, affluent and perhaps not so much, all joined together to support one another.

And the candles! Candles were everywhere. They were like our votives but with metal lids to protect the flames.

Candle Prayers
Candle Prayers
But it wasn’t all about grief. I found joy in the Old City, which was surrounded by pieces of the original city wall. Warsaw was completely devastated by World War II and had to be rebuilt, ground up. The work that was done in the name of a battered yet proud culture is something I’ll never forget.

My biggest disappointment was finding the Chopin Museum closed for the period of mourning. Of course I understand–Chopin is Poland’s favorite son. Even his 200th birthday celebration had to pause to note his nation’s loss. It is supposed to be one of the most modern, innovative museums in all of Europe if not the world. I guess this means I’ll be back!

Warsaw Old Town Original City Wall
Warsaw Old Town Original City Wall
I left Poland with a profound respect for my heritage, and with tremendous pride in being an American and from a Democratic society. Because the other thing I witnessed was that this was a peaceful albeit unplanned, unexpected transition for a young democracy. Powerful stuff.

10 Comments on “Warsaw, Poland April 11th-15th 2010

  1. What beautiful pictures. And what an interesting time to visit Warsaw! Thanks for the great travelogue, now I have to put Poland on my list of 86 places we want to visit. Can’t anyone go to New Jersey? I’m never going to be able to decide where to go on Feml (or whatever it is).


    1. Hi Sonja!
      Poland is a great family destination. We loved Krakow when we visited several years ago, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Beautiful sights and wonderful meals with the kids.

    1. Thanks, Rebekah! I never know if my travel pieces are as fun to read as to write, or if I get the feel of a place across enough. Thanks for letting me know.

  2. What a wonderful post. I never had an interest in visiting Poland until I worked with a Polish Officer for a year. He told me some amazing stories. He loved our Military Exchange because he said the clothes and shoes were so inexpensive. He was also astonished that we could easily purchase cold medicine and pain killers. Very eye-opening for me.

    1. Hi Isis,
      So great to see you here, my ROMVET sister. For those of you who don’t know, ROMVETs is short for Romance Veterans, an on-line group of ladies who served or are serving in the Armed Force, and also write romance. http://www.romvets.com/

  3. Geri,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I, too, am of Polish decent and hearing about the accident was very sad. Your pictures brought Warsaw alive. Thanks so much for sharing them. What a unique experience you had to be in Warsaw when this happened. It was interesting to learn about Warsaw in World War II. I read a book a couple years ago called “Push Not the River” and while it’s a fictional acocunt, it is based off a young Polish Noblewoman’s diary during the Russian’s 3rd partion. Very interesting if you get a chance to check it out.


    1. Hi Stephanie,
      Just as with Russia, I’m finding out about a treasure of history in Poland. I didn’t apply myself to European History the way I should have in school! Thanks for the book tip.

  4. What a wonderful post Geri glad to see the interesting things you saw through your eyes.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I love to share what I see around the world, be it in the States or Warsaw or Moscow. I’m very blessed to be able to live this life, and share it in my writing.

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