This Easter holiday (perhaps you know it better as 'The Special Weekend in Spring During Which Jesus Turned into a Zombie") was a special one for me for many reasons. The biggest one, perhaps, was that it was my first in Poland without my mother and father, but instead with family that I’ve only very recently come to see more often than once every five years or so.
Living in Prague (which is, as you may know, in Europe, where Poland also happens to be) means that I could not, unfortunately, spend the Easter holidays with my brother, mother, and father in Boston as I normally do. Instead I had the option of visiting the family I know and love on this side of the ocean. For me, there was also the added bonus (or, as I sometimes look at it, the added fear the depths of which few can truly perceive in this world) of introducing a significant other to this family.
Andrew, who has been introduced and referenced in various previous posts, came with me to Poland this weekend to finally see what my Poland looks like, and to meet various members of my very large, and likewise very Polish, family.
Though I’m not religious, I love the Polish traditions that these religious holidays provoke. The general Easter tradition is that on Saturday each family creates their own Easter basket filled with various things -- ours at home generally included some colorful hard-boiled eggs, some bread, kielbasa (obviously), salt, pepper, and a sheep made out of sugar. The day before Easter, some representative from every family would bring this basket to church to be blessed by a priest.
The next day, the food would be divided up and shared amongst all visiting family members, or brought to families’ houses you are visiting to share with them as well. You wish one another health, wealth, and good things, and then you get down to the serious business of eating until you can’t eat any more like any typical American holiday. I love both these traditions and my family, and so I was excited to get to introduce Andrew to both.
However, any Pole visiting family he or she hasn’t seen in awhile must, of course, come bearing gifts. I found a few things here and there I thought aunts or grandma would like, and of course there was lots of candy, but the most important gift in any Polish family is always alcohol. As I was coming from the Czech Republic, the natural choice was a little ethnic something called Slivovice, or, as it came to lovingly be called by some of my family during the course of the weekend, Czech vodka.
Somehow, over the course of one Saturday visiting two separate families, both bottles disappeared, along with a bottle of something Polish and gross, which I thankfully did not partake in. I think it’s safe to say Andrew received a rather appropriate welcome to this new land.
As words alone would not suffice to truly explain a weekend trip to Poland of the sort Andrew and I experienced together, I put together a small photo montage to aid in understanding.
One of the first things we did after arriving in Warsaw around 8 a.m. Friday morning was walk through a bazaar close to my aunt and uncle’s house. I love it there, not only for the amazing finds (I once snagged an all-leather, barely used backpack for under US$7) but also for the hustle of its denizens.
Monday through Saturday, people are there selling anything and everything, either on the sidewalks on the outskirts of the market walls itself, or from behind brightly lit booths where you have to know and say exactly what you need, or else you’re -- to put it nicely -- shit out of luck. Poland was once a communist state, where things in shops were handed out, if available at all. A man or woman behind a counter would get it for you, kind of like the modern-day equivalent experience of buying condoms or cigarettes from the judgmental man behind the counter at 7-11.
In this bazaar, many of the booths operate the same way, and it made me feel rather accomplished when I completed a transaction smoothly. Not anticipating the near-below-zero temperatures, Andrew was cold, so one of our first stops had to be to find a used scarf that we hope wasn’t infested with fleas or something worse.
Next I had to try to forget all the Czech I’ve been painstakingly accumulating in order to buy transportation tickets in Polish. It looks like I’m concentrating really hard, but really it’s just that numbers confuse me.
A quick tour of some of Warsaw’s best underground metro graffiti.
Here I am, posing as the Mayor of Gooberville, with some graffiti that says, “Get to know yourself.” Appropriate.
The statue of one of my favorite Polish writers, Adam Mickiewicz.
Can you find the vandalism I just added to this nice Warsovian wall?
Markings on the ground of where the Warsaw Ghetto was.
Us in the reflection of Warsaw’s main Law building.
My favorite little monkey and I prepare to go visit the farm.
My cousin gave me a tray of hot muffins and then told me I couldn’t eat them. That’s love.
My uncle, grandmother and I having some certainly serious discussions.
The presentation of the Slivovice, etc.
No trip to Poland is complete without some cows and a blown-out Kasia.
And then it was time to nom again.
We played hide-and-go-seek with the kids. As you can see, the bathtub is not the finest hiding spot.
A good uncle is one who makes delicious snacks for the road.
And there you have it, folks: A very Polish Easter weekend. Similar to many families’ experiences, I’m sure, but one that, for me, will probably never cease to stand out.
Images courtesy of the author