48 Hours in Warsaw: Pierogies, Jewish History, & Ancestors
Hi everyone - welcome back to Into the Forests I Go, a place to explore my meanderings in beautiful Lithuania and beyond.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was off last week gallivanting around Warsaw - something I still can't believe I can say so casually. Why was I there? After three postponed attempts in the United States and Poland, we finally got to see The Lumineers, a great little alternative folk band with firm roots right in a corner of my heart - Colorado, to be exact.
Remember when I traveled to Vienna to see one of my favorite bands (well, and Empress Sisi and Gustav Klimt!)? They were initially opening for The Lumineers in Warsaw, but since that Poland show got postponed, I rerouted and booked a trip to Vienna specifically to see their own Europe tour. It all worked out, really. Here's how it works: I just pick a new place on a map and decide to visit to see a band I like - that's the beautiful part of living here now.
But finally, after surely a few years of waiting, we were on our way to Warsaw, shuffling with the full moon on an overnight bus. Well, I should say - I shuffled with the full moon while my husband fell right asleep. (And no one was surprised.) The best part of that overnight trip came at 3:15 in the morning - yes, I was up, singing songs with the moon - when our bus drove in the proximity of the town my great-grandmother and her family lived in before moving to the United States.
I was stunned with gratitude.
This is the type of moment so many people pray for, and it happened to me at 3:15 in the morning. I may have been tired, but my spirit was wide awake.
Moments after stepping off the bus in Warsaw, The Scientist noticed signs and monuments related to the Warsaw Ghetto. Once again, I experienced places only read about in history books, spoken about by Holocaust survivors, and uncovered by myself while looking at a random Euro coin. My sister stated that she's not sure what happened in Warsaw but she knew it was a big deal - and it was. The Warsaw Uprising was a massive moment in those years and even had some crossover with Vilnius.
One of the leaders and organizers of the Jewish Fighting Organization, Mordechai Anielewicz, came to Vilnius with other fighters once Germany invaded Poland. They returned to Warsaw knowing they'd likely meet their death - and did it anyway. Would you do that? It's so interesting how it all overlaps, but I continue to be of the mindset that despite all the terror, generational and collective trauma, and pain, it's important to come back into these spaces with a sound mind, a clear heart, and willingness to balance remembrance with present-day reverence.
I honored them just by showing up. While I was walking around Warsaw, especially on the street named for Mordechai Anielewicz, I was spiritually struck with the understanding that I'm here - in Europe, in Warsaw, in Vilnius, in Panevėžys, in Anykščiai - for my ancestors and because of my ancestors. I'm proud to be here - and I know not everyone gets this opportunity, although I've invited everyone in my family to visit.
The point is that I personally have been given this honor and invited it into my life, and because I've been open to it, I get to have these rich experiences... and share them with you. I'm very grateful.
Beyond this important moment in my personal life, I really enjoyed Warsaw. I've had friends share that they don't like Warsaw as much as, say, Kraków, due to it having less history - thanks to being bombed indiscriminately during wars. But that's precisely why I liked it - there was so much underneath the surface just waiting to be explored. It wasn't all screaming at me like the Sistine Chapel, but trust me, it was there, from their Old Town into other neighborhood corners.
And a huge thanks to my friends for sharing some of their favorite Warsaw spots, because The Scientist and I had amazing pierogis and cherry liqueur - and we stumbled upon an amazing Ethiopian restaurant to celebrate our anniversary.
We packed a lot into those 48 hours, but I'm most grateful to have shared it with someone who shares my sense of adventure - and is more than willing to visit Jewish sites with me. (Mentsch!)
Will I be back to Warsaw? Yes, absolutely, without a doubt - and I can say that with a full yes.
And as per usual, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on whatever's on my heart that day! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon!