As the author and main character in the narrative of our life, it can feel as though we are writing our own independent novel. Yet genealogists, with their longer perspective, see ours as just the most recent chapter of a great series, with many volumes where tremendous events have transpired which set the scene for our arrival. The pen has passed through many authors before it has reached our hand. Although the blank pages ahead of us provide space for the exciting journey into the future, there is also a great and important odyssey to be had in an exploration of the past.
The vast chronicle of events that precede individuals of Polish descent may be especially dramatic. The contemporary history of Poland is marked by turbulent upheavals, doomed uprisings, waves of war, occupations and partitions with the associated political repression and economic hardship. This caused great movement among the Polish people with mass displacement, waves of emigration and other population shifts. As a result, individuals from historically Polish lands have found themselves dispersed throughout the world. For many, knowledge of their lineage has become unclear or lost altogether along the way. Yet more of these individuals with a Polish connection want to rediscover their family history and find out more about their ancestors. Many have found genealogical firm Your Roots In Poland to uncover out more about their past.
Creating Work In The Soil Of History
The origin of Your Roots In Poland is appropriately in the Krakow National Archives but they were not established by a dusty history professor. Kinga Borowiec and Karolina Szlęzak were history and archivistics students preparing their master’s thesis and spending long hours in the Krakow archives. They saw several people from abroad who were asking for assistance in their family history research. Although the government archive employees were helpful, they could not devout enough time for these request.
“At this very moment we thought – we can do it. We have the skills and education, and knew the databases and the archive structure already,” said Kinga.
By matching their academic knowledge with an entrepreneurial spirit, over 7 years these savvy young women have built a successful company and growing profile. They have helped over 1000 clients discover more about their ancestry, shared their insights on TEDx and are partners with American broadcaster PBS. But what exactly do they do?
The Your Roots In Poland team is like a group of genealogical detectives working on open cases. The ancestry search begins when a client comes with any documentation available from their past like names, dates and places for events like birth, marriage, death. This is the foundation of the search and the more information there is the easier it is to start. Then the exploration of the historical records begins.
The complexity of this process is tremendous. It requires knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, migration trends and historical socioeconomic or religious conditions. Each document must be scrutinized, interpreted and skillfully assembled with other indirect or circumstantial evidence. To piece together each individual’s history, the Your Roots In Poland team includes seven people, with different specializations like historians, archivist, polonists, and anthropologists. Polish, English, German, Russian and Ukrainian are all spoken as it is necessary for the work. As a result, the client obtains a research report which includes all data found, records, photos, together with historical background regarding the area where the ancestors lived.
Many clients who start this journey remotely from their homes in places like Australia, Great Britain or the United States feel so emotionally moved by the discoveries that they experience the urge to visit Poland. Here the Your Roots In Poland team arranges “Polish Roots Tours” for individuals to travel to places connected with their history throughout the country. Sometimes it is still possible to reconnect with living relatives. For these individuals, history comes alive as remembrance is brought into the present.
Although most clients are driven by a sense of sentimentality, Your Roots In Poland provides technical legal assistance with services like obtaining Polish citizenship. They also help many individuals who never left Poland trace their history along with legal needs like the legitimacy of claims.
The Truth About A Multinational Poland
By stitching together the genealogical micro-histories of each individual, Your Roots In Poland has weaved together a broader mosaic of the history of Poland. The records show that the Polish people have an inter-mixed descent with elements of German, French, Russian, Dutch and more. The same forces that carried Polish people to distant places also caused great heterogeneity in the make-up of the people on historically Polish lands.
“The Polish people have one have the most diverse compositions of all European peoples,” said Karolina.
“There is no such thing as 100% Pole, French, English, etc. Due to the massive migrations, economic and political circumstances, our ancestors originated and then mixed in different cultures and world parts,” added Kinga.
The declaration of a multinational Poland populace is not in tune with the current voices leading the political discourse in the country and wider historical discussion in the society. To build awareness, these trained academics at Your Roots In Poland, who work in the field and have an unbiased, scientific approach to the truth, have established an educational foundation with which they lead genealogical workshops for seniors and children to discuss these topics.
The Need For Roots
The late Polish social theorist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, himself driven out of Poland by a political purge by the Communist government in 1968, characterized our current period as one of ‘Liquid Modernity.’ Bauman described this as a time of where individuals feel increasingly uncertain and anxious from a fluid and rapidly changing world that lacks trusted points of reference. When this contemporary difficulty discerning the future is matched with a dislocation from history, then we are truly adrift. When this condition is scaled to the size of societies and political communities, the peril is further heightened.
In this context, Your Roots In Poland is a vital grounding force anchoring us into the firm facts of history as proven by the records of the archives. The Your Roots In Poland team helps individuals with the good luck of having Polish descent understand and even experience their ancestry and place in the large historical picture. Further, Your Roots In Poland voices and proves the genealogical account of the Polish people as richly diverse and heterogeneous. This truth should be celebrated, not marginalized-
The pen is now in our hands and the blank pages of the future are for us to fill. For these words and events to be enlightened and informed, it is critical to read our own introduction. Was yours written in Poland?