The Road to Mikołajówek

Part 3

by John Johnson

 

Luck followed again in the spring of 2003, when a website was provided to my contact in Michigan. It was sent by a friend who told him there was a picture of the church in Janówka where our records came from. The link was only in Polish, and at that time I still couldn’t read Polish. The site also contained a directory of dozens of tiny villages in northeastern Poland, with what appeared to be addresses and telephone numbers of people in them. The village of Mikołajówek had 10 telephones, and one was for a Marek Harasim. Using Poltran.com and my Czech brother in law, I drafted a crude letter introducing myself, why I was writing, included a map which showed the location of Mikołajówek, asked for help, and sent a few dollars for return postage. Then we waited.

Returning from a family reunion (Pachucki side) in Wisconsin that 4th of July, I found a letter from Poland waiting for me. It contained a hand-drawn family tree, consisting of my information and Marek’s “branch.”  

 

Marek's tree

Also included was a photograph of my Grandmother and four of her five sisters that had been taken in the house in which I was born in St. Louis.  Amazing—the picture was taken in St. Louis in the 1950s, sent to Poland, and then sent back to me 53 years later. We had our bona fides established! Based on Marek’s “tree,” his family was part of the “sixth family” branch we knew had to exist. His great-grandfather was Antoni Harasim, the same Antoni Harasim who had descendants living in Michigan. Ironically, that website no longer exists. I’ve been told that privacy laws in Poland prevent addresses being listed in telephone books! Another few months, and I might never have learned of my cousin’s existence!

Our written communication was slow at first as they knew no English, and I no Polish. I began using internet studies, PC software programs, and eventually took a conversational Polish class at a local community college over the next two years. My comprehension of Marek's letters suffered until I learned that my company had a small office in Warszawa. Via our corporate "chat," I asked the first person who was logged on from that office, Małgorzata, if she spoke English, which she did. I explained my situation, and elicited her help. Małgorzata has been a tremendous help and good friend for two years now.

house

Harasim home in Poland

Marek invited us to Poland, but I knew it would take some time before I could do it both financially and "language” wise. My eldest daughter, my Godmother and I traveled to Poland this past July (2005). We finally met and stayed a few days with Malgorzata, then traveled to Mikołajówek and spent six days on the farm with my Polish family. It was the most emotional, amazing time of my life. The bonds that were made in those six days are strong. My daughter wants to go back to be married in the Kościół (church) Janówka, where her ancestors have been baptized, married, and buried for at least 135 years. So, another adventure awaits us in the future!

You just never know what will transpire to help find your family. Everything old is a clue.

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written by John Johnson
January 2006
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