Archive for 'traditions'

Great book worth reading…

Posted on 15. Oct, 2014 by in History, traditions, travel

There are so many amazing Polish books…I don’t even know which one to really recommend and choose. However, few years ago, I have read a book about Polish migration to USA and I have to say that it is really, really worth reading.

The story’s factual content reads like a documentary of ocean travel at the end of the 19th Century. The reader will become familiar with the details of traveling by sail in 1869 – the conditions of travel as well as the physical and emotional problems the passengers. The story is told mostly through the eyes of a newlywed couple, Paul Adamik and Jadwiga Wdowiak Adamik. At its beginning, she finds him, an obedient soldier in the Prussian army, intending to re-enlist, carry on his family’s farming tradition, or accept an offer to become the caretaker of his German lieutenant’s lands in occupied Poland. But she is a strong-willed fisherman’s daughter from the Baltic coast, and she has different plans for him.

Father and son augmented the stories, remembered by the father, with scrupulous research. They portray the tensions among Poles caused by the political situation of those times when Poland was partitioned among three neighboring powers, Russia, Prussia, and Austria. The difficulty of life in occupied Poland was the main reason why so many people left their homeland in that time, responding to the stories of a free America. This is shown in the book very well. If you enjoy adventure and romance – you will find it in the book also.Unknown-2

People who decided to travel oversees had to be very brave and desperate, like the statement from the book, “the fearful never left and the weak never survived.”Anybody who decided to go oversees had to sell everything before travel, knowing he might never return. He needed all that money to start life in a different part of the world.

Early in the 19th Century, just getting to a port of embarkation might mean days or weeks of travel on foot, by rivercraft, or in horse-drawn vehicles. But by the middle of 19th Century, the spread of railroads made it easy. The first part of travel of Jadwiga and Paul is done by train to Bremenhaven, Germany. Then they embark with other Polish immigrants on the ship Frederika in the cheapest steerage class amid livestock.

Under normal circumstances, the travel would have taken about a month, and Jadwiga’s baby – she is now pregnant – would be born in America, as she has planned. But the Frederika, pressed into service for the emigration trade, is not competently managed and the ship is damaged, extending the travel. Food grows short, and steerage passengers get the worst of it. It is painful for parents to see their children hungry, and the situation calls for desperate measures.

Despite the difficulty of such travel, there are many joyful moments as an elderly couple entertain children with Bible stories and tales that will boost patriotic feelings for both Poland and America.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Which soft drinks Poles like the most?

Posted on 08. Oct, 2014 by in Culture, traditions

We all know that anytime people think about Poles and their drinking habits – vodka screams at us! Yes, part of it is true. Just like each country has specific food and drinks that is popular there. Poles are used to drinking shots of vodka…but I have to say that usually opinion about it is exaggeration.

Now how about soft drinks? Which ones are popular in Poland? I can definitely tell you that when I was growing up…I barely tasted soda. Kompot (compote) has been always on the table.

Image by funtik.cat on Flickr.com

Image by funtik.cat on Flickr.com

Compotes are drinks prepared of fruits – usually fresh, sometimes dried. Sugar is added and sometimes cloves are used as a spice. In Poland the most popular fruits are: apples, morello cherries, currants, cherries, strawberries, pears and a rhubarb. Compote is prepared in the summer and stored for the fall and the winter time. It’s served cold, together with the fruits. A glass of compote is typical dinner drink in many Polish homes.

The so-called ‘susz’, prepared of the blend of dried fruits is a special kind of compote. Susz, in contrast with raw fruit compotes, has a brown color, muddy look and a very peculiar taste. Susz is one of compulsory ingredients of the Christmas Eve supper table. I still remember hiding coke or sprite under the Christmas table….because according to the tradition…we were not supposed to drink soda before midnight.

What else was popular when I was a child? Of course oranżadaOrangeade is – as you probably know – a sweet, alcohol-free, carbonated drink with an orange taste (traditionally). This drink, which travelled to Poland straight from France, spread in the aristocratic Polish cuisine in the 18th century. Basic ingredients of oranzada are sugar and orange juice or syrup.

Oranżada had its period of magnificence during the Cold War. In communist Poland, poorly and insufficiently equipped with goods of any kind, the orangeade constituted one of the basic, bottled drinks available in groceries. There was a technology of producing oranżada of powdered orange juice(!). This products was sold as powder, which dissolved in a glass of water gives you, a faint reminder of a glass of oranzada-type beverage. Another type of oranżada was sold in plastic bags which thirsty one should pierce with a straw. Today the popularity of this drink is definitely smaller, compared with Coca-Cola and other ‘international’ drinks.

Other than that…juices are popular as well as soda, although soda definitely not as popular as in USA…

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

How does Polish funeral look like?

Posted on 02. May, 2014 by in Countries, traditions

Funerals in Poland, i.e. the actual ceremonies, go a long way back. In addition to mourning the dead, it has always been a time of evaluating the life of those left behind and, in line with the Catholic faith, always with a view to improve their attitude toward others. Funerals gave the priests celebrating the passage from the worldly to the (hopefully) heavenly an opportunity to rebuke the living for their sins while calling on them to lead a better life. For the believers this seems to work rather well, as everyone fears death, one way or another.

As most people in Poland are Catholic, they usually have a Christian funeral ceremony, which may or may not be similar to whatever is practiced by other Christian nations. With the death of a close one the family usually publishes an obituary (nekrolog) (in Poland this is essentially a death announcement published in one or more newspapers indicating the person who died and identifying the date and place of the funeral) and lets distant relatives know of the sad event. Similar death announcements (klepsydry) are also posted at the church at which the ceremony is to be held, and possibly also in other places, such as the home of the deceased to let their neighbors know. Funeral homes (dom pogrzebowy) are contacted to perform all of the required legal steps and provide the coffin or other funeral-related artifacts.

Once all of this is done and the day comes, people usually gather before the mass for a wake (czuwanie) by the casket (trumna) (traditionally this can last as long as an entire night) in the chapel, which is then followed by the service. In addition to the usual celebration, instead of the sermon the priest provides a brief account of the deceased’s life, concentrating on the positive aspects. Depending on the arrangements with the church, other family members may also give their own eulogies, although this is highly uncommon. Following the mass the casket is carried by the funeral home workers to the hearse (karawan) which, along with all the flowers and wreaths (kwiaty i wieńce), takes the deceased on their last journey (ostatnia podróż).

When all the mourners (żałobnicy) have arrived at the cemetery (cmentarz), the priest will commence the graveside committal service, or the final farewell (ostatnie pożegnanie). While throwing a handful of soil onto the casket lowered into the grave (grób), they will repeat the well-known phrase: “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Z prochu powstałeś i w proch się obrócisz), known in the Anglican tradition as “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. This is also the time when family members can say the last goodbye. After this the gravediggers (grabarze) will start their work and the overall atmosphere will become very somber and sad. It is customary for mourners to approach the closest relatives of the deceased person and offer condolences, saying for example: Moje najszczersze wyrazy współczucia (My deepest sympathy) or Proszę przyjąć moje kondolencje (Please accept my condolences). Once this has been said, it is probably best to leave the family mourners for a while to allow them a moment of solitude with their feeling of loss and sorrow.

Following the burial service (pochówek) it is also customary in Poland to offer a funeral luncheon (stypa or konsolacja) involving a meal and a gathering with the family to remember the life of the deceased. Such gathering may be held at the decedent’s house or at a designated reception hall or restaurant. If you have been invited, spend some time with the family comforting them over a meal, and leave paying your final respects.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)