“Here is our long-forgotten family home.
And, having heard now and then the voice of ancestors calling,
Like a grey little forest bird, from far-away centuries,
I fly to you, Belovezhskaya Pushcha.”
– Russian ballad by Aleksandra Pakhmutova, 1975 which celebrates the Białowieża Primeval Forest.
I came across this quote in my Lapham’s Quarterly – Book of Nature edition. This quote hit me deeply as I too wish to one day return to the lands of my most distant ancestors. I’d like to walk where they walked and see the landscapes that they saw. Alone at dawn or dusk I’d close my eyes and listen for their faint whispers calling to me from centuries ago. They had families, children, laughed, struggled and lived a life experience that has all been forgotten by the passage of time. Most people only think towards the future, rarely appreciating even the present moment let alone all that has occurred over the millennia to bring them to where they are now.
I hear my ancestors calling, inviting me back to the homeland. In the modern world it is only a plane ride and a days journey away but it costs money. There is also the issue of language but to an experienced traveler and ubiquity of English poses much less of a problem.
I had never heard of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha before so I looked it up on Google Maps. It is represented by the green arrow and looks like it is just a days ride away from my very first stop (blue arrow) when I eventually visit Poland. Through the magic of Ancestry.com I was able to trance by Great-Grandfather – Feliks (Felix) Sarcopski – back to the town of Grochowalsk Poland; or at least that is what was listed as his residence on the Hamburg passenger list.
Looking at the pictures of Grochowalsk in Google Maps it seems as though there isn’t much going on there now, let alone back when my great-grandfather left. There is a picture of a beautiful church but I haven’t been able to find the actual name on the website even using the new and improved Google translate.
However, I had Google translate the first paragraph on this website and reading it got me very excited.
The first mention about Grochowalska from 1244. “Grochovarsko property was then divided between the three knights who distinguished themselves in battles with the pagan tribe Jacwiegow. From space they adopted the name and in the fourteenth century. There are already as owner’s Grochowalscy.” Since the nineteenth century, Grochowalska owners many times are changing. The last owner of the property was Anna Goscicka.
Knights, foreign lands, history, religion and my great-grandfathers homeland as well?? Pinch me, I must be having a wonderful dream!
Even if it is just a small, half-forgotten village I would be very excited to visit. The main reason would be to further discover the history of my Great-Grandfather Feliks and perhaps even bump into a few relatives. If I’m not mistaken the Polish know how to drink and so bonding with the relatives no matter how distant shouldn’t be too difficult.