Last weekend we managed it to take a trip to Poland. We had been talking about such visit for several years but never got around it as so many things got in between. Our destination was the Island of Wolin (Wollin in German) and we stayed in the town Międzyzdroje (Misdroy). This town, also called The Pearl of the Baltic, is a very popular holiday destination during summer time due to its wonderful beach and these days every second building is some kind of hotel. We didn’t do much in that town as we had other plans ahead. Together with my little family, my brother and my father we drove 10km further to the village Kołczewo (Kolzow), the birth place of my father, to see whether anything was left from the old family buildings.
Now let’s say that we were happy to see that in Międzyzdroje a lot of the old buildings were renovated and looked once again like the old times, however in Kołczewo things were a bit different. As this village is no tourist spot nothing has been pretty much done there since the war ended. Sure some apartment complexes had been build some when in the 70’s / 80’s but the old structures are just falling apart. It was no problem for us to find the old canopy road to get to the general direction of father’s birth place. While driving we only had to look out for some higher hill with some buildings and there we saw the old house on the left. The poor road set with concrete blocks wasn’t the best for cars but we managed it up and parked the cars on top of the hill. The house was a mess, it had further degraded since we had visited in the early 90’s and strange add-ons had been built to the structure.
On the property of the old family home we could still see the foundation of the engine powered mill my grandfather had built in 1938. Besides the foundation there was an old millstone propped against a tree. Nothing was left of the windmill on top of the hill or the bakery next to the main house. In the distance we could see great-great-great uncle’s farm from whom my great-grand father bought the property for the mill and houses. Down the street there was also the day-laborer’s house (also belonging to my grandfather) standing now divided into two half’s. One of house half was actually in really good condition with even solar panels on the roof. It was probably the best building in the entire village at this point.
We also went to the village center to visit the church as the old German graveyard was there on its property. Back in 2007 someone had still taken some pictures of some of the graves for documentation however by now it had been all plowed and it was a potatoes and vegetable garden plus little playground. Sadly we could not find any further information about my ancestors from that place any longer. Behind the church we found one single old gravestone leaning against a tree and a lot of the former Lutheran church equipment piled up and rotting away.
Even though we could not find anything about our family history it was still nice to see some of the old buildings standing. I also asked some of the village residents for information but no one had any idea as they were all born after the 60s and thus had not even a clue about the former church ruins on a little hill in the village center with a graveyard which also had been demolished around that time. For my father is was probably a good feeling to see his old home once again even though it was upsetting to see it in such terrible state these days. We certainly plan on travelling there again in the next years; after all it is only 3 1/2 hours away by car (in case the traffic is playing along).
Have you ever visited some place where your ancestors came from?
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9 thoughts on “Visiting Dad’s old home”
My mom’s side of the family owned a southern plantation. People are turning those plantations into wedding venues, which I find kind of horrifying. If I went there, it would be more as an act of penance for my white supremacist ancestors.
What a wonderful idea to make out of a place of slavery a wedding venue. Wonder how big the outrage would be here to make a former holocaust camp a wedding venue…
I really don’t know how people can have such strange ideas. Those old plantations should be a site of penance as you said, something to show how sick and wrong the past was and how white people treated others
Well, the slave quarters were, of course, removed (easily done as they were rickety shacks with bare floors at best). It’s only just now that Black American activists have demanded that they be returned and added to the tours of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s homes.
Germany has done a much better job admitting its wrongs and trying to do better than the United States.
Germany did better but sadly there are still people out here who think that the holocaust never happened and Jews are responsible for everything (See last weeks nazi terrorist who killed two people here after failing to storm a synagogue as the door was too thick for his self build guns)
But at least Germany didn’t put up statues of Joseph Goebbels or Goring and say they were all about “heritage and not hate.” I don’t know how long it will be before all the Confederate traitors’ names are removed from schools in the U.S. And there are so many streets and statues in Virginia alone…
Interesting trip and thanks for recording/sharing it with us. Yes, I have visited the places my grandparents and dad came from. It was overall a nice experience … being where they could have walked, etc. 😉
Same we had, it was a nice experience to see the old buildings and the village. My mother told me when they went there in the 90s my father’s aunt still lived and showed them around, she knew who lived in each building back in the day
I enjoyed seeing photos from your visit. Even though some buildings were in bad condition, it was good that they were still standing.
The house where my mother was born is still standing and in fair condition. But my grandparents and others from that generation were immigrants or newcomers to the region and moved around a lot. My sister has investigated city records and found some of the old houses. The city where I now live began as a settlement in 1870, so, as you can see, the history of this region is young. Only the Native Americans have been here long.
Indeed in case of immigrants the “past” starts at the places where they first settled and that is not even that long time ago. I could trace the first of my father’s ancestors back to the 17th century building a settlement on the same island where my father was born (settlement as in opening up the island’s center rather than having just all the villages at the coast and rivers).
Anything before that is unknown but then again it is nice to find some kind of trace where that part of the family came from and how long they had been inhabitants on that very same island