Tues., Aug. 28: Krakow

I don’t think I previously discussed a challenge we confronted in our travels. Both Marek and I have previously rented cars in Europe. I think that Lindsay said that she also had. Gas pumps work the same way they do in the US, gas is paid for either before or after pumping by cash or credit card. I think the big difference is that payment had to be made at the counter not at the pumps. This was obviously not a big deal. I don’t remember when the weird message about “add blue” appeared on the dashboard. It was certainly there by the time we got to Kiev. We asked Anna who owns a car about it and she asked her husband who is in the car business. Neither of them knew anything about it. We inquired at some gas stations and they said they didn’t carry it and that it was an additive. We figured it was something like the old STP additive, and didn’t give it much more thought.

Then, in either Romania or Hungary, the mild message became more aggressive and even threatening. It now read that the engine would stop working in 786 km if we did not add blue.  Marek estimated that we would be back in Warsaw long before that mileage had been reached, but then the system started beeping every few kilometers. This was now slightly worrisome and very annoying. We started hunting for add blue at gas stations. The first one that had it only had it in a 10 liter size which we thought was overkill, so we ignored it. We found a gas station which had smaller containers and Marek bought and added two. It did nothing to appease the message or the beeps. We stopped at other gas stations who had heard of it but didn’t carry it and all pointed us up the road a bit to where there was a station, we were told, that carried it.  That station sure did – there was a dedicated pump! Marek spoke to someone at the service station and filled up the reservoir that was near the gas tank and it took 9 liters! The beeping and the message went away, to our relief.

The archives and the Director were welcoming. The Director had prepared a presentation for us and had a room and records waiting for us. After the illuminating presentation we jumped into our research. On their own servers were indexes and some digitized records, other records had to be requested and the archivist in charge of the reading room was wonderful about bringing record books to us quickly.I knew quite a bit already about the family I was researching, but that didn’t stop new findings from being surprising. Previously I had identified a place this family lived prior to relocating to Kraków. Today’s finds however proved that although some members of the family were born in the other town, and some in Kraków, the family lived in at least one other place prior to settling in Kraków!

The records also revealed other surnames we would need to investigate. As so often happens in Jewish research, information that initially seems to be straight forward is not. In this case, it was because a marriage record indicated that the couple being married were illegitimate and thus each were known legally only by the surnames of their mothers, not by their father’s. In the case of the groom, we had not previously known the father’s surname. In the case of the bride, since previously identified records showed her siblings with their father’s name, and only showed her after marriage, it had not occurred to us to look for the children with their mother’s name.

Illegitimacy was a common status on Jewish records. Couples would marry according to the laws of the Jewish community but would not register their marriages with the civil authorities. Rules regarding marriage in the Jewish community were punitive. Often there were heavy taxes imposed on a new family or there was a cap on the number of Jewish families permitted to live in an area or only one son in a family was permitted to be married. There were more rules and regulations, but I think you get the idea. Anyway, the law stated clearly that a child born to a couple whose marriage was not registered was not permitted to use the father’s name and was registered as illegitimate at birth. That status along with the use of the father’s name could be amended later if the parents registered their marriage. Sometimes this happened when the children were adults!  In one recent case I was researching, a couple registered their marriage when their children were teenagers and the appropriate adjustments were recorded on their children’s birth records. THEN, the man’s parents registered their marriage. This man was in his 40s by then.  So, his name was amended and then the surnames of his children were also amended! Tricky stuff!

Kraków is amazing. There is truly nothing else to describe this marvelous medieval city. There are shops, restaurants and entertainment, museums and other cultural facilities. The Jewish presence is quite clear in the two synagogues, two cemeteries, JCC and cultural events. However, everywhere you turn there are tours of the city and of the nearby camps advertised. I felt that the camps were being made into a recreational diversion. I did not opt to visit them. I know that many people do, and I obviously have no issue with that. My issue is only with the way these tours are advertised.

Marek had told me when he saw how captivated I was by the displays of amber in Lithuania, that I should restrain myself. He said that in Kraków I would find so much more and a lot of amber set in silver. I did indeed and purchased several gifts and some things for myself.

Oh, and the ice cream!  Wherever we have traveled, ice cream has been our go-to snack. As I did in France and Israel and elsewhere, I settled on two flavors (this time pistachio and chocolate) and compared the flavors wherever we went. In Kraków I had a most magnificent chocolate with orange peel – it’s a good thing that I didn’t remember where I bought it and that we had limited time in the city, otherwise I’m sure I would have skipped meals and dined on it at least three times a day!

Tonight will be our last dinner together.  Tomorrow we will be in Warsaw, and Lina and her husband, Gabriel will be staying at a hotel near the bus station.  Lina will be vacationing with her family in Lithuania and they will be taking the bus to Vilnius from Warsaw. Gabriel has been serving as an unofficial addition to our team as a photographer, taking photos when the rest of us were occupied with research and helping to photograph whole books of records for us. I made a reservation at a restaurant not far from the archives. We all went off on our own to explore Kraków. Ola and I went over to the Jewish quarter to explore the cemeteries and synagogues. I bought a small yad and a hamsa to add to my collection of each.

Tomorrow is a long driving day back to Warsaw.





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