Updated: Oct 24
Part of my heritage is a farming region in eastern Poland centred on the community of Zareby Koscielne. For at least eight generations it was home to my family on my father's side.
But it's a part of my life about which I knew absolutely nothing for 75 years.
My mother took me and left my father, Stanislaw Zebrowski, when I was just four years old. She ripped him out of family photos, refused to talk about him, and discouraged me from trying to find him.
For the last year I've been searching for answers about my father: what sort of a man was he, what was his family like, where did he grow up, go to school, get his first job? Now, after some detective work that started when I found his unmarked grave in Northern Ontario last year, I have a few answers. Not many, but at least a few clues to the people and environment that shaped the man whose genes I carry.
He may have checked out the produce on sale at a street market and fair in Rynek Street in Zareby Koscielne (see photo at the top of this blog). He probably wouldn't have bought anything, though. He lived on a prosperous farm with a reputation for growing really good vegetables and fruit. And his mother Jozefa was famous for her delicious bread baked on horseradish leaves.
In 1934, when he would have been 20, he might have gone to the annual Forest Fair celebrations (above). His own father, Ignacy, was there: he was the mayor. That's Ignacy, my grandfather, circled in the picture above. There's a tradition of civic service in the Zebrowski family. At least two of them served as mayor.
At that time, as landowners and farmers, the Zebrowski family was part of Polish nobility, entitled to their own coat of arms. The photo above shows part of the family homestead where my father grew up.
And this is where he would have gone to school. When my father was born, in 1914, the school was an old, dilapidated cottage with just one classroom. But by the time he was ten it had been transformed into the much larger school you see above.
So now I have a couple of the pieces of the jigsaw of my life. I have a sense of where my father was born, and an understanding of the family's place in the community.
And now I may have my first authenticated pictures of Stanislaw, from the time when he joined the Polish army, was captured by the Germans, and met my mother in a Displaced Persons camp after the war.
I'll have more to tell you in my next post.