Posts Tagged With: Poland

Visiting the Masai

I already described a visit to Tengeru and our safari. A lot had happened during those two days in Africa… After returning from safari we had a dinner with ladies from Sweden, with whom we were going to spend the next five days and we had to plan the next day. We started the next day with a quick breakfast and then our two Land Rovers arrived. We loaded our luggage and went shopping. We had to buy stuff for the whole week. When shopping, first in the supermarket and later at the local market, I felt a bit like an explorer preparing for the expedition in the nineteenth century. I know I exaggerate a little, but if we ran out of water, someone would have to run to the well in the morning and then boil the water. Being the only man in the group it’s easy to guess who would be responsible for this task 😉 Thats’s why it was important to buy everything from the list.

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Perhaps the most emotional moment in Africa for me was a visit to the Polish Cemetery in Tengeru. Tengeru lies near Arusha, about 20 minute drive (a little longer now with all the road works). From Arusha we took a matatu, a local means of transport which are small vans, richly decorated (often in the colours of the English football clubs) packed to the fullest. The system is simple but effective. Vans operate according to more or less specific routes. The crew consists of a driver and a “tout” who shouts the final destination, gets people in and takes the money. There are no specific stops, if you need to get off the matatu stops 🙂


Photo’s a bit blurred but it was a bumpy ride

The pleasure of taking matatu will cost you 500 Tanzanian shillings per person which is about £0.18. From the junction with the main road we took a taxi for 10,000 shillings (less than £4) which was not an excessive price because the driver drove us to the cemetery, waited for us to see everything and drove us back to the intersection where again we boarded the matatu. We were a small attraction, being the only white people in the matatu.

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The basis of the economy is agriculture but tourism revenues are an important source of income for the people and Government of Tanzania. Kenya is a role model when it comes to tourism. The infrastructure there is more developed almost everyone speaks English and Kenyans are proud to say that they are way ahead of Tanzania. And although the United Republic of Tanzania (the creation of Tanzania was the merger of the British colonies of Tanganika and Zanzibar, hence the name) is younger than Kenya only by one year (if anyone’s interested in the process of creating independent states in Africa, please refer to Ryszard Kapuscinski – it’s worth it!) Difference in progress between two countries is easily noticable.

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Marcin arrives in Africa…

In a series of short entries I’m going to describe my visit to East Africa. Although it wasn’t my first visit to Africa (I visited Morocco in 2013) this part of Africa stimulates all my senses. The Arabs, the Portuguese, the British left their mark on this part of the continent. This is where Speke, Livingstone and Stanley made their discoveries, Karen Blixen planted coffee (as you can see in Out of Africa). And besides at least a few people from my generation would love to follow in the footsteps of Tomek Wilmowski, the main character of a series of adventure books I read when I was much younger 🙂 

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General Sikorski’s traces in London

A short post today. Recently we had a 73rd anniversary of Gibraltar aircrash. Three years ago I attended at the Polish Embassy in London a ceremony celebrating 70th anniversary of the catastrophe. Continue reading

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Polish submarine seamen in Sweden

Flag Day, May 3rd Constitution Day are a very good reason to write something. Today’s topic is not new, a doctoral dissertation has been written on the subject. Let me tell you then a few words about my short but eventful visit to Sweden.

I started my first visit to my girlfriend’s country in her hometown, Mariefred. Seemingly normal, sleepy town on the shores of Lake Mälaren but surprisingly with many Polish traces. Continue reading

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Swedish Christmas

Christmas is over… In order to keep the Christmas spirit for a little longer I’ll describe my holidays in Sweden. It was my first non-Polish Christmas and I have to admit I liked it.

Before you ask let me just say that there was no snow. It started to snow on the way to the airport and covered everything very quickly. My girlfriend comes from Mariefred, a small town 30 mins by train from Stockholm so it is in the south and apparently snow does not fall until beginning of year. But I guess it’s time to start the post. Continue reading

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Poles from Santa Rosa

Because of the Bank Holidays at the beginning of May in Poland and the 70th anniversary of taking Monte Cassino by Poles today I’m going to serve you a bit of history.

As you probably know, tens of thousands of civilians left USSR with the Anders Army, including many children and orphans and something had to be done with them. Civilians were deployed in such exotic places as Iran (at the Sikorski Museum in London you can see a Persian rug, woven by Polish orphans in 1943 in Isfahan – a gift for General Anders), Africa, India and… Mexico. And the Mexican chapter will be described today. Continue reading

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Polish cemeteries in Vilnius

The day after my wanderings in Vilnius, I decided to go to the Rasos cemetery, where is buried the urn containing the heart of the Marshal Pilsudski (Marshal’s tomb is located on Wawel Hill, about which I wrote here). I walked so slow that pensioners were overtaking me, but I gritted my teeth and at the snail’s pace got to the cemetery. The urn is buried in a common grave with Marshal’s mother, Mary née Billevich Piłsudska. On the grave it’s written only MOTHER AND SON’S HEART and two quotations from Slovacki. The mausoleum  is placed in the middle of a small Polish military cemetery, where are buried the soldiers killed in the 1919, 1920, 1939 and 1944. Marshal ‘s wish was that his heart was buried among his soldiers. Military Cemetery is well presented, although on some tombstones names were barely legible. Some of the tombstones are damaged by bullets, but I could not figure out whether this occurred in the course of Operation ” Ostra Brama ” in July 1944 ( the liberation of Vilnius by the Home Army and according to plan “Tempest”, welcoming Russians as the host ).

Mausoleum with heart of Marshal Pilsudski

Mausoleum with heart of Marshal Pilsudski

Soldiers' graves. One can clearly see damaged gravestones

Soldiers’ graves. One can clearly see damaged gravestones

The Rasos cemetery looks a little worse, a lot of tombstones is neglected and one has to blaze a new path to reach them, but do not forget that this is a very old cemetery, it was founded in 1769. And walking through the cemeteries is my little “thing”, I like to read the names on the tombstones, find out how many years they lived, what they were doing. Of the most famous characters in the cemetery lie, inter alia, Joachim Lelewel (historian, Adam Mickiewicz’s teacher), Rafał Radziwiłłowicz (doctor, psychiatrist, brother of Stefan Zeromski and prototype of Dr. Judym from “Homeless people”), Adam Pilsudski (Marshal’s brother, Senator, Vice President of Vilnius ), Anthony Wiwulski (architect, sculptor, author of the Grunwald Monument in Kraków and the Three Crosses in Vilnius), Maria Piłsudska (the first wife of the Marshal), Eusebius Slovacki ( Julius Slovacki’s father) and many professors and lecturers of the Stefan Batory University (founded in 1579) and other prominent Poles and Lithuanians.

"Dr Judym's" gravestone

“Dr Judym’s” gravestone

Adam Pilsudski's gravestone

Adam Pilsudski’s gravestone

Joachim Lelewel's gravestone

Joachim Lelewel’s gravestone

Black Angel from Rasos cemetery

Black Angel from Rasos cemetery

After returning from Kaunas (post coming soon), I went to the Bernardine Cemetery in Vilnius. This cemetery looks much better than Rasos and mostly thanks to the late Andrew Przewoźnik, who was the Secretary General of the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom. More than 150 gravestones have been restored by the Council.

Plaque at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery

Plaque at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery

This cemetery is not as old as Rasos, it was founded in 1810. Many outstanding Polish and Lithuanian scientists and artists rest there, you can also find the graves of insurgents from 1863 and soldiers from 1919. It was a really strange feeling, strolling among the Polish graves in a city that is not Polish anymore. But don’t worry, I will not call to get Vilnius back 🙂

Soldiers' graves from 1919

Soldiers’ graves from 1919

Tomb of insurgent from the January Uprising

Tomb of insurgent from the January Uprising

After a visit to the cemetery, I decided to complete the list of monuments and walked to the Cathedral of Vilnius (dedicated to Saints Stanislaus and Ladislaus), the burial place of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Polish kings at the same time. The cathedral makes a beautiful impression from the outside, but inside it seemed a little harsh, but that’s my opinion. The first temple on the site was probably built in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The cathedral

The cathedral

Cathedral's interior

Cathedral’s interior

After the cathedral I went to the Polish church (Holy Ghost’s) for a second. From the outside, the church seems to be squeezed between the buildings, but inside it looks really nice. But the assessment of both churches I leave to you, my dear readers.

Inside the Holy Ghost's church

Inside the Holy Ghost’s church

One of the plaques hanging in the church commemorating Home Army's soldiers

One of the plaques hanging in the church commemorating Home Army’s soldiers

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Vilnius stories – Part II

Time  to continue wandering around Vilnius. During my “marathon” on the first day I managed to see quite a lot. Although a non-believer, always with great pleasure I visit churches, what attracts and captivates me is the peace and tranquility prevailing inside. The first sight was the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul in Antakalnis (Vilnius district). The first wooden church on the site was built during the reign of Wladyslaw Jagiello, was burned at the end of the sixteenth century and later rebuilt lasted only until 1655 when it was again destroyed, this time by the Russians. The building in its present form was started in 1668 and completed in 1684, and was founded by Lithuanian hetman Michał Kazimierz Pac. The curiosities worth mentioning are the crystal chandelier in the shape of a boat (a reminder of the sinking of the transport of the main altar with the crystal columns ordered by Pac in Italy) and placed somewhere close to the entrance a large Lithuanian drum (litaur) brought by hetman Pac after the battle of Chocim in 1673 (unfortunately I did not see this as I did not know during my visit about it and I certainly would find a way to see it). The interior is really impressive but I also recommend a walk around the basilica, because there are plenty of Polish traces out there (as in entire Vilnius). In the years 1951-1989 the church served as an art gallery, but it is often encountered situation in Lithuania, that the churches in the communist era were used for other purposes e.g. warehouses.

St. Peter and St. Paul's Church

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

The interior of the basilica with the boat-shaped chandelier

The interior of the basilica with the boat-shaped chandelier

Polish trace on the church's wall

Polish trace on the church’s wall

The next stop was the Adam Mickiewicz Museum, located in the house where our poet lived and worked. I was able to get to the museum in front of a large Polish tour, with which I then “raced” to next sights 🙂  Further proof that you can organize everything yourself and see exactly the same things as on organized trip, without having to be rushed from place to place. But everyone explores how he/she wants.

Plaque above the entrance to the Museum

Plaque above the entrance to the Museum

Gentlemen at the Museum (with a lovely Vilnius accent) asked me if I’m alone (I think groups are more common), to which I replied, yes, but that I do not lose hope 🙂 and then they warned me that if I chose Lithuanian girl, I have to take a skinny one, because, according to the Lithuanian custom, the bride must be carried across the bridge (as indeed I saw near the castle in Kaunas). While visiting museum at the same time as Polish trip, I was listening to their guide, telling various tidbits of life of our poet (in this very house he wrote “Grazyna”). I highly recommend the museum, because admission is not expensive, and you can learn something new. Museum is not very big, so you won’t be bored.

Adam Mickiewicz's death mask

Adam Mickiewicz’s death mask

At this desk Mickiewicz created in Vilnius

At this desk Mickiewicz created in Vilnius

A museum board from the beginning of twentieth century

A museum board from the beginning of twentieth century

On the way to the image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn I visited beautiful St. Anna’s Church. Napoleon liked this church so much that he wished he could move it to Paris. Founded by Alexander Jagiellonczyk in the late fifteenth century as the Bernardine monastery chapel, the church was rebuilt several times after fires. Beautiful interior stopped me for a while (until the appearance of the Polish tour). Right next to the church is a monument of Adam Mickiewicz.

St. Anne's church (left) and behind the St. Francis and St. Bernard's church.

St. Anne’s Church (left) and behind the St. Francis and St. Bernard’s Church.

St. Anne's church inside

St. Anne’s Church inside

St. Francis and St. Bernard's church inside

St. Francis and St. Bernard’s Church inside

Adam Mickiewicz monument

Adam Mickiewicz monument

Finally it was time for the Gate of Dawn. Madame Wala from Sikorski Museum keeps saying that she prays only to the Virgin of Gate of Dawn and I had a strange feeling that Lady of the Gate of Dawn is closer to the people than the one from Czestochowa. There are no wild crowds like in Czestochowa, people passing by kneel and make the sign of the cross. You can approach the image at a very close distance, I felt a little intimidated standing next to it, but the moment of reflection was ruined by another tour wearing sandals and socks…

The Gate of Dawn

The Gate of Dawn

Painting of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

Image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

A short walk away from the Gate of Dawn is St’ Casimir’s Church. Wonderfully restored facade and rich interior meant that I was distracted for a moment and thought about the power of the old Polish Republic, when the aristocracy had the money and the willingness to fund such masterpieces. The church was built in the first half of the seventeenth century, burned down during the Russian invasion in 1655. The fire destroyed the church twice. Napoleon’s army used it as a granary, and from 1839 until 1917, the church was converted to the Orthodox. Since 1963, there was… a Museum of Atheism (an example of Soviet sense of humor). In 1991 large crypt from the early seventeenth century was discovered under the main altar. You can view the interesting black and dark-blue drawing, forming the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and praying monks. Drawings are accompanied by similarly made ​​subtitles in Latin.

St. Casimir's church

St. Casimir’s Church

The interior

The interior

One of the drawings in the crypt

One of the drawings in the crypt

That was the end of my tour, I had to run to meet my CS host. Renata took me to a delicious Lithuanian dinner, mushroom soup served in bread and zeppelins – dumplings filled with meat stuffing with bacon (the name comes from the similarity in appearance to the Zeppelin airships). At the end of the day, after a delicious unpasteurized beer, Renata showed me the Presidential Palace, from a less popular among tourists side.

Presidential Palace from the back

Presidential Palace from the back

It was a very intense day, I did 25 kilometers on foot and legs almost refused to work at the end. Another episode of Vilnius escapades soon.


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