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Sunday, July 21, 2013

A trip to Poland - Part 3 - Showing up unannounced

 We did what some said would be a waste of time.  We drove to a place that was barely on the map, using a route that included "turn right on the second unnamed dirt road" and found my grandmother's family.   My aunt, 3rd cousin (on the Furgal side), and I left Suchy Grunt and made the roughly 1.5 hour trip to Smerdyna to see if we could just show up and ask anyone we saw if there were any Sierant descendants still in the area.  Needless to say we passed by the second dirt road on the right in our travels and had to circle back.  We took a guess at which dirt road was the right one and started to drive through a few small villages.  Google maps told us we would only be driving for a few minutes but after 10, we stopped beside the first sign of life we saw along the road and asked if we were going in the right direction.  We were told by some very nice farmers that we were close and it was just a few km away.   After driving 5 kms away we came to a fork in the road.  Hmmm we weren't told about that.  We turned right and proceeded to drive up to another man and ask him for directions.  He told us we were very close and sure enough we drove a little further and saw the sign for the village.  Luckily the road took us straight into the heart of the village and stopped to talk to 3 ladies who were working their field.  They told us that people with the name Sierant lived straight ahead.  We pulled up in a laneway but the house was fenced in and there was a rather big dog behind the fence.  We walked to the front of the house and luckily a woman came out to talk to us.  Her husband who followed close behind her was indeed a Sierant and after a few minutes we figured out that we were related but we weren't sure how.  They let us know that there was another Sierant family up the road and down the right laneway.  We worked our way over there but there was no one home (and another gate and dog).  We walked up to another man working his field and asked him about the family.  He wasn't sure if  his neighbors were related to the Sierant family but another neighbor heard our story and suggested that we talk to the elderly man who ran the store in town.  We visited with him but he wasn't able to help us. We worked our way back to the potential Sierant house and a different next door neighbor let us know that the family was out working the fields but would be back at lunch and he would tell them that some people from Canada were looking for them.  In the meantime, he gave us directions to get to the cemetery (which took us FOREVER to find) and headed over there.  We saw many Sierant stones which I took pictures of but the cemetery was larger than I imagined it would be and it was hotter than Hades so we did not walk through the entire thing.  The church was also locked up and the rector was not at home (we later found out he was probably teaching school).  Eventually we worked our way back to the house and sure enough we met our family:  Teresa, her husband Tadeusz and her sister Irene.  Teresa and Irene are the daughters of Andrej, my grandmother's brother.  Teresa and Tadeusz were living in Katazyna's house (my grandmother's sister).   We were so happy to meet them because we know so little about my grandmother's side - she was the only one from her family to immigrate to Canada.   During a great but too short visit, Teresa gave me the names of all of her siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins to help me with the family tree.  We showed them the pictures that we took in the cemetery but surprisingly none of the stones were for our close/direct ancestors.  Irene offered to take a break from harvesting and showed us the stones of my great grandparents, great aunts and great uncles. 
  The biggest surprise was my great grandfather's stone.  My great grandfather died when my grandmother was 13 and they were too poor to buy a gravestone.  After my grandmother came to Canada, she sent money to Poland so they could place a stone on her father's grave.  Something neither my aunt nor my dad knew.
  We were a little nervous at first about just showing up somewhere and asking people for help but we are so grateful that we did. We are thankful to have found so many kind people who were genuinely interested in helping us track down and reunite with family that we didn't know!

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