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Leaving Poland


The instant we met my heart recognized her as part of me, long before my eyes had finished their first scan of her tiny frame.


Regina Zebrowska was the last family member I met before I left Poland. She wasn’t able to come to the big family reunion because she’s battling cancer. So I went to the farm she and her husband, Włodzimierz, run.


Wlodzimierz is a first cousin, one of the nearest living relatives to my late father Stanislaw Zebrowski.


After giggling like schoolgirls, we sat down to eat. No Polish gathering is complete without food, lots of food. Regina’s table was heaped with delicacies. And like any good Polish mama, Regina fretted that she didn’t have enough food. I loved her for that, as her heartfelt hospitality transported me to the days of my youth.


I looked at Regina and Włodzimierz across the table and saw the heart of Poland, a country that has been divided, devoured and dismissed throughout history by other nations. 


Yet Poland always came back, always survived. And my family has survived for centuries, helping to build the Poland of today.

I went to Poland looking for a few of my late father’s relatives. Instead I found a huge, proud family. They embraced me wholeheartedly. Not for one moment was there ever any awkwardness, any hesitancy, or any questioning of whether I belonged. I was their’s. And they were mine.


Finding my family was everything I had hoped for, and more. Much more. I’ve come home to Canada, but I left a big piece of my heart in Poland. I will return.

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