A Powerful Day in Poland

November 20, 2015

Our CEO, Jason Miller recalls his journey to Poland to find the villages where his grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, were born.

 

Last year, I visited the villages where my maternal grandparents, the Merkrebs’, were born. Both survived the Holocaust, and to see the simple, lovely places they were raised was humbling—an experience I’ll never forget. I’m the first in my immediate family to go back to the “old country.” With the exception of a few cousins, my entire extended family on my mom’s side perished in the Holocaust. But even though the trip was difficult and emotionally-draining, I felt it was important I went.

 

I partnered with a local translator to help me make the journey. Our first stop was Krzemienica (population: 481), the hometown of my Grandma Eva. Before I left for this trip, I had dinner with her. She recalled that her childhood home was nestled in front of a small creek, and that she used to enjoy listening to the sounds of a waterfall outside her home. My guide and I drove to the village, as quaint as I had imagined. I immediately spotted the creek. The water bank was lined with small homes, and an elderly couple sat on the steps of one of the houses. With the help of the translator, I showed them photos of Grandma Eva and cousin Esther. I was shocked to learn that this man, Mr. Jan Brozyna, knew my grandmother and her family.

 

 

grandma4

 

He walked me across the street to the house where she grew up. It’s been over 75 years since she lived under that roof. Much of the home has been altered, but part of the original wood structure remains.

 

grandma5

 

Next, we drove 100km to my Grandpa Julius’s childhood village, Blizianka (population: 181). He passed away 20 years ago, but we still miss him every day.

 

 

1384270_10152373472573928_2250256845117953714_n

 

My Grandpa didn’t often speak about his past, but I knew he survived the Holocaust as one of Oskar Schindler’s workers. An old friend of his, Mr. Edward Golda, moved to the US in 1961 and now resides in New Jersey. Before I left, Mr. Golda gave me the name and phone number of a friend who still lives in Blizianka, Mr. Leopold Blizniak. He promised that if I called him, he would show me where my grandfather lived as a child, before being chased out by the Nazis.

 

My translator called Mr. & Mrs. Blizniak, and we made plans to go to their home that afternoon. I was honored to meet their family. They told me that my Grandpa’s house no longer exists; an open field stands in its place. I stood there in front of the field for a moment, thinking about my grandparents and what they’ve been through. Mr. Blizniak also brought me to the home of a 93-year-old man, Mr. Henrik Pieciok. Mr. Pieciok is the exact age my Grandpa would have been if he were alive today. They went to school together. I shared photos and listened in awe to 75-year-old memories.

 

 

10153171_10152373473903928_2783853134262527756_n

 

When I returned to the Blizniaks’ home, Mrs. Blizniak served afternoon coffee with a beautiful spread of snacks. I met their granddaughters—schoolgirls who were eager to practice their English, and I was delighted to oblige.

 

 

10252181_10152373473473928_8061608632542052913_n

 

I’ve traveled to some of the world’s finest hotels, run by true masters of hospitality, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as welcome as I did in that home. I’m beyond thankful I got to take this emotional and transformative journey.

 

Looking to plan an unforgettable travel experience? Contact The Accomplished Traveler today at 212.586.2020.

From Our Blog

When we think about Paris’s luxury accommodation choices, we often conjure images of the city’s grand hotels, the famous and expansive palaces that feel quintessentially Parisian. For a more boutique… read more

Our recent trip to Turkey’s famous city showed us just how seamlessly diverse cultures and religions can blend.   Istanbul will always be a unique and vibrant city where the… read more

New year, new travel goals!   From wineries in New Zealand to beaches in Uruguay, here are some of our hot travel destinations to explore in 2016! If these spots… read more

Our CEO, Jason Miller recalls his journey to Poland to find the villages where his grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, were born.   Last year, I visited the villages where my… read more

We traipsed the German and Austrian Alps and toasted “prost!” to an unforgettable Oktoberfest celebration.   After ascending the steep streets of Berchtesgaden, Germany, we arrived at Hotel Kempinski, nestled… read more

My father and I make our way to western Sicily.   After visiting some of the iconic sites featured in “The Godfather,” my dad’s favorite movie, we began our journey… read more

When your dad is an Italian aficionado and a fanatic for “The Godfather” movies, nothing says “happy birthday” like a trip to Sicily.   As a special present to celebrate… read more

The perks of having a son in the travel industry? Extraordinary birthday trips. Jason Miller, founder & CEO of The Accomplished Traveler, tells us about the adventures he planned for… read more

Our trip to Florence and Rome reminds us that, in many ways, the world is small.   In Florence we stayed at the Lungarno Hotel, in its iconic location overlooking… read more

The second half of our exquisite tour of Spain   Day four of our journey (click here to read about the beginning of our trip), we took a guided tour… read more

Back to Top //