Not Great Grandma’s Babushka

I just had to touch these headscarves on sale in Warsaw. I’d seen them many years before, in the Polish neighborhood in Amsterdam, New York. Old ladies wore them to church. I fondled them in Warsaw and Gdansk and in the touristy market in Zakopane. Nostalgically, regretfully.

I wrote one of these scarves onto Regina’s head in my novel. But last week in Wroclaw, I saw a panorama of the year she was thirty. Peasant women wore headscarves of plain white. Oh well. I must be historically accurate.

I learned her village, Wojtowa, was about 100 km from Krakow, a half day drive each way, and decided not to go, in the 35 C temps and humidity, to a place where nobody from my family is left. I did travel through many little towns and villages and collected information and pictures.

The trip is so recent, however, that I’m not in mind of her world as much as I am of the Poland of today. I’m so proud to be connected genetically to these strong, brave people, to the heroes and heroines of Solidarnosc who started the toppling of Communism in eastern Europe, to the music in Kashuby that brought tears of recognition, and above all, to the overarching hopefulness of the people, young and old, happily building homes and roads and their first true democracy.

I’m rooting for them, heart and soul.

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go…

Well, not quite, but the Peter, Paul and Mary song, Leavin’ On a Jet Plane, is running through my head this week. We have our plane tickets. The weather in Poland will be in the 70s during the day and sunny, and in the 50s at night (and dark, as George Carlin might say.)

The elderhostel folks say we can take side trips to the hometowns of our ancestors. My friend Grace, who is from Poland, says we can take a busik (little bus) to most villages. Even if Regina’s house, #49 in Wojtowa, is gone, I will walk in her footsteps near the Ropa River.

We will stay a few days each in Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan (my maternal grandma’s hometown), Wroclaw and Krakow. We will eat at a small farm and attend a Chopin concert. We will visit bookstores and sidewalk cafes. Two weeks in Europe with my love heart, walking the land of our foremothers (and fathers too!)

Do widzenia!