Memories of Traveling in Europe and the British Isles

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, Retrieved October 17, 2022, https://www.hotels.com/go/italy/trevi-fountarome

Europe and the British Isles are beautiful places to visit if one ever has the opportunity. As a young adult, I traveled to Europe and/or the British Isles twice. On the first occasion, I studied in Poland for the summer prior to my last semester in college. When I returned two or three years later, I spent six weeks traveling to as many countries as I could to drink in the people, places, and cultures of each nation. Overall, I had a wonderful experience on both occasions, and I am so thankful that I was able to travel at the time that I did because I have not had the opportunity to return since then – that was more than 25 years ago.

I have included a prior post about Poland, studying in Poland, and visiting with my Polish relatives on this blog site, but will provide some additional information here. Traveling out of JFK Airport in New York City to Warsaw, Poland, and then, by van to Krakow, I spent a summer studying abroad in Poland. I had a wonderful time learning intensive Polish language at Jagiellonian University in Krakow with several of my classmates from the University at Buffalo, as well as a few other students from around the world. We had two instructors – one lady who was fluent in Polish and English, and another lady who was fluent in Polish and German. Luckily, when the latter lady taught the class, one student from California was fluent in English and German, and she was kind enough to translate for the class. It definitely made for an even more interesting experience learning a language that I had only previously known a few words from that my mother, aunt, and grandmother had spoken.

By the third week or so of learning Polish, I wrote a postcard in Polish to my relatives in Kielce, and the following weekend, much to my joy, several of them arrived – unannounced – at my dormitory building and we spent the day together, sight-seeing at the beautiful Wieliczka Salt Mines. I also visited them and met even more of my relatives in Kielce when I traveled to my great aunt’s home by train a couple of weeks later. I had been tasked with items to gift to them by my family, and so, it was a must that I visited with them. I stayed for that weekend with my great aunt, Marianna, ate a family-reunion style dinner with my relatives, and attended church with Great Aunt Marianna before traveling back to Krakow.

During the time that I studied in Poland, I spent a day with my study abroad group in Czestochowa, Poland, visiting the Jasna Gora Monastery and viewing the icon of the Black Madonna. I also took time on several weekends to do my own traveling. On one weekend, I went to Berlin, Germany, and took in as much culture there as I could. I remember at the hostel where I stayed, a fellow traveler let me know that many Europeans did not particularly like Americans since we were viewed as “partiers,” and that they preferred Canadians. So, for the rest of my travels in Europe, if I did not have to show my passport, I became an “honorary Canadian.” On my weekend in Berlin, I enjoyed experiencing its history, particularly different historical monuments such as the Brandenburg Gate. I also walked from the old West Berlin to the old East Berlin, noticing the obvious differences in the “life” or lack thereof of the two sections of the city. I actually asked a passerby on my walk, in German while using my translator book, why there was such a stark contrast in the appearance of the city, and he told me that I had entered the former Communist side of Berlin. That explained everything. It was a very eye-opening experience simply to walk from one side of the city to the other.

I also traveled with a friend, Jen, to both Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, as well as Vienna, Austria. She and I were both interested in traveling while we studied in Poland, and so we were a good match to travel together and watch each other’s backs. I will always remember the greedy train conductor who got more money out of Jen and I on our train ride to Vienna. He obviously thought we were “Rich Americans,” and had the power to tell us that we had not paid enough for our tickets and that we needed to fork over some more cash. Neither Jen, nor I understood what he was saying, however the Italian man sitting across from us told us in English what he wanted. He said that if we didn’t give him some money, he could throw us off the train. It was a good thing we both had some money on us because we gave him some and he was satisfied and left. What a crook! We had paid in full for our tickets and were sitting in the correct seats, and there was nothing else we could do about it. When you don’t know the language and you are a young American woman traveling in a foreign country, there are these kinds of vulnerabilities that you must deal with. I’m glad it wasn’t any worse than that. At any rate, both Prague and Vienna were absolutely stunning, though Vienna was crazy expensive. Prague was even prettier than Vienna due to the historic architecture that had not been destroyed by World War II.

I wish I could have visited more places while I studied in Poland during that summer, but there is only so much time to do everything on one’s agenda. So, I promised myself that I would return and visit more of Europe in the future, and I did that a couple of years later. I was intent on returning, and not receiving any handouts from my parents, I cashed in some investments that I had and spent a summer traveling in Europe and the British Isles. Really, I had convinced my mom to travel with me to the British Isles, and we visited London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Dublin, Ireland over the course of two weeks before I spent the next five weeks on my own. Mom and I visited castles, museums, parks, and pubs, and saw many a crown jewel that was out of this world! Pictures don’t do those jewels justice – you have to see them in person; they are absolutely incredible. The people were all very friendly, especially those in the pubs who were happy to encourage us to try ginger beer, which was actually very tasty. I have to say that it is probably my favorite beer! Dublin was very nice and had that bubbly, happy feel that the Irish gave it. Mom and I also saw the Aurora Borealis while we were in Dublin – it was really beautiful!

After two weeks touring the British Isles, I saw my mom off at Heathrow Airport to head back home through Toronto, Canada, and then, to Buffalo, New York. It was nice to have her company, most of the time, but I wanted to do things, independently, as well. So, for the next four weeks, I had my opportunity. I traveled throughout Europe on my own with two small luggage bags. I traveled very lightly, washing my clothes as I went along, and did not buy but only a few small mementos to take back home with me during my trip. Thankfully, my parents had told me they did not need or want anything, so the pressure was off for having to buy them anything. I did find a few small things to take back home for them, however.

I started out my five weeks by taking a ferry from England to Brussels, Belgium. I stayed in a youth hostel there – as I did in many of the places that I visited – for several days while I toured the city. Brussels is full of culture, as well as some cuteness, particularly with the statue of the little boy urinating. In short, the story about it is that there was a young boy who got lost and separated from his mother, and when he was located, he was seen urinating in the street. There is a statue of him in Brussels to commemorate this momentous occasion, and it is quite the tourist attraction!

Other places in Europe that I visited during my second trip there included Geneva, Switzerland; Lucerne, Switzerland; Engelberg, Switzerland; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; Rome, Italy; Florence, Italy; Vatican City; Nice, France; and Paris, France. I took the train with a Eurail pass when traveling to different cities, and when I was within a city, I took subways where I could or went on foot. In Switzerland, American money did not go very far as everything was very expensive. However, Switzerland was beautiful to visit because of the mountains and amazing landscapes. One place I visited was Mount Titlis and the glacier on that mountain, near Engelberg. I remember traveling there on a bus along a very windy, narrow road that the bus could’ve gone off of and over the side of the mountain at any moment. Thankfully, the bus driver was an expert at handling those winding curves because I actually wondered if I would make it back down the mountain alive!

Luxembourg City did not have much to offer, but I did buy some music from there. Rome, Florence, and the Vatican were lovely and very cultural. I enjoyed the many sites, statues, and fountains in Rome, particularly the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. I also achieved a life goal of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and was in awe of this beautiful, holy church. I was disappointed, however, at being unable to see the Sistine Chapel. I asked a nun in the basilica, in Italian, if the chapel was open to visitors, and she told me it was closed in her sad, miserable way – I felt sorry for her and prayed for her, wondering why she was so ugly. Perhaps just being a nun was enough.

Prior to heading to France toward the end of my trip, I went back and spent some more time in Brussels. I enjoyed Brussels and it was relatively inexpensive on my budget, so I took in some more of the castles, museums, and parks there. Eventually, I did have to go to France, and I stopped in Nice first to enjoy the beach. Following that, I traveled to Paris where I toured around and saw some major sites. Of course, I went up the Eiffel Tower, saw the Arc de Triomphe, and toured the Louvre, which was absolutely huge and astounding. I remember seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and thinking about how much smaller it was than I expected it to be. Paris was extremely expensive, and I had little money left by that time, so I spent and ate frugally. When it was time to return home, I nearly missed my flight out of Paris because I had not allowed quite enough time. I had not expected the Charles de Gaulle Airport to be so huge, and I thought I knew my French better than I did. Thankfully, a woman who spoke fluent English helped me while I was on a shuttle bus traveling between different gates, and she put me in the right direction. Had she told me incorrectly and had I listened, I really would have missed my flight home! Sometimes, God has a way of placing good people in our lives who help us when we most need it!

So, that pretty much sums up my travels in Europe and the British Isles. I think that summarizes all of the places I visited. I no longer have my “prized possession” passport from that time that reflected all of the country stamps since it was trashed by my former spouse, however I hold onto many wonderful memories of my travels. Also, as a young adult, I traveled on my own several times in the United States, along the East Coast and South, and in Canada, including Niagara Falls, Toronto, Algonquin Park, and Montreal. Canada has that down-to-earth feel with good family values, and I always enjoy traveling in and visiting Canada, though many years have passed since I was last there. While I was traveling in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Canada, I generally felt safer than whenever I traveled alone in the United States. Hopefully, someday, I will be able to return to Europe or the British Isles. It would be great to take my son to visit and tour some of the beautiful sites with him!

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Some Photos from my Briggs, Staffin, Ritter, and Gale Family Ancestry (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nearly all of my vintage and antique family photos are from my dad’s side of the family.  Because my mother’s family were immigrants from Poland to Germany to the United States through Ellis Island around 1950, I have fewer than a hand full of vintage photos from my mom’s side of the family, the Krakowiak side, though I do have a few.  Photos and tin types from my dad’s side of the family include those from the following families: Babcock, Briggs, Gould, Hoyler, Staffin, Gale, McEwen, Crawford, Cole, Ritter, Henn, and Goetz.  And, those are just the images, while there are other families who are part of my ancestry, including Rump, Rodgers, and others.

My direct ancestral heritage – in addition to that of Poland from the Krakowiak family – reflects people from England, particularly the families of Gale, Bulson, and McGee; the French and German ancestry of Adelia Staffin; and the German ancestry gained from the families of Gould, Rump, and Henn; and both Hoyler and Ritter (through marriage).   The Briggs’ and Babcock’s were also from England, but had been settled in the United States prior to the Gale’s.  My ancestry can also be traced back to England’s King Henry VIII, as a result of his many marriages; and Clement Briggs, one of my ancestors, who traveled to Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in 1621 on the Mayflower.  The name “Briggs” has many variations; and is believed to have been derived from Saxon William atte Brigge of County Norfolk, England in the 1200s.  That is the furthest back in time that I have been able to trace some of my ancestry.

The following photos and tin types are those that I have selected to reflect some of the many images of my ancestral heritage from the Briggs, Staffin, and Gale families, as I know it, so that the richness of culture, values, and family can be shared and enjoyed outside of my family, as well.  The photos were taken in North Collins and Collins, New York, near Buffalo.  I will make additional posts with pictures reflecting the other families identified in the near future.  Note that for photos that have estimated dates, I have tried to date them as best as possible to reflect an accurate time of when they were taken.

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1840

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1860 (Tin Type)

This is the oldest tin type that I have that reflects ancestors of my family.  The tin type was in the condition seen in the photo when I got it from my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, so I have carefully preserved it as best as I can.

Adelia Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad's Mother's Father's Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1845

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad’s Mother’s Father’s Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1865-1875 (Tin Type)

Adelia was said to have been a short, but fiery and tough woman.  It is possible that she was married through an arranged marriage to my great great grandfather, Wallace Briggs, because they married when they were kids.  It does not even appear that Adelia is 13 years old in the first picture in this post, however it is believed that she and Wallace were married at about that age.  Adelia and Wallace had five boys (Clarence, Howard, Harold, Sumner, and John); and while I am unsure about how Adelia died, it is possible that she died in childbirth.  She would have been 26 when Clarence was born (the second oldest son) and 37 when John was born.  The oldest boy was Sumner, born in 1879 when Adelia would have been 23.

No one in my family seemed to know how Adelia died, or if they did, they did not talk about it.  I know that she seemed to have died at a young age (possibly under 40 years old), and Wallace married a second wife, Veronica, having four boys (Ivan, William, Lawrence, and Leo) with her.  Therefore, nine Briggs’ boys grew up and at least seven of them (all but for Howard and William “Bill”) had families in North Collins, New York in the 20th century.  Birth and death dates that I have, as recorded by my grandmother, for Adelia’s and Wallace’s sons are as follows: Sumner (1879-1939), Clarence (1882-1953), Howard (1886-1944), John (1892-1934), and Harold (1893-1965).

Sumner Briggs married Frances Creed, and they had four children, including Rexford, Emerson “Coon,” Harriet, and Buddy.  Howard Briggs was a bachelor.  John Briggs married Ella Rieckhof, and they had one child, Lois, who married Harold Rodgers.  Lois and Harold had a daughter, Margo, who had a son, Eric, who would be about my age.  Harold Briggs married Emma North; they had a son, James, who married Mabel Orton.  James and Mabel had three children, including Beverly, Barbara, and Bruce Briggs.  I know that Ivan married Louise Gullo, and they had three children, including twin girls and a son, David (who died in the Vietnam War).  Bill married Ruth, but they did not have any children.  I don’t know about descendants of Lawrence or Leo.

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs was the daughter of John Staffin and Phoebe (Wilcox) Staffin; and she was the sister of Mary Ann (Staffin) Smith (who married John Smith) and William Adam Staffin (who married Cora Wickham).  John Staffin was born in 1830 to Adam Staffen (1804-1869) and Anna (Mathias or Mathis) Staffen (1807-1886), and was brother to 10 siblings.  Anna’s father was Johann Mathis, who was a blacksmith, and her mother was Anna Maria (Schmitt) Mathis.  Adam and Anna sailed to the United States through Ellis Island from France in 1840, purchasing land in Collins, New York.  They had left their home in Saarlouis, Germany to sail from the Port of LeHarve in France, coming to the US with $800.

Adam and Anna were schoolteachers, teaching in a large room of their home; and Adam was also a stone mason and farmer.  At that time, the Staffen’s school was the only one in the area, and young men traveled from miles around to be educated by them.  They taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were paid in kind with raw materials rather than money. When Adam and Anna Staffen came to the United States, they spoke fluent French and High German.  They were Roman Catholic, and are buried in the Langford Catholic Cemetery in Langford, New York.

Adam Staffen was one of three sons (Jacob, Adam, and Nikolas) of Johann Steffen (1748-1814) and Susanna Girlinger (1766-1833).  Susanna’s parents were Phillip Girlinger and Maria (Bauer) Girlinger.  Phillip was a farmer in Germany.  Johann Steffen was the son of Simon Steffen (1716-1771) and Catharina (Schwartz) Steffen.  In 1741, the marriage record of Stefan Simon (who changed his name to Simon Steffen around 1847) reflects that he married Catharina Schwartz, and that her parents were Franz Schwartz and Apollonia (Everhard) Schwartz.  Simon’s parents were Dominicus Simon and Catharina (Corsain) Simon.  Around 1838, Simon and Catherine moved from Longville, France to Ittersdorf, Germany, although rule changed from German to French rule at that time.  It is possible that the move and name change were due to political reasons.

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin's

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin’s

Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s parents were Chauncey L. Wickham and Rosene (Spaulding) Wickham.  Cora married William Adam Staffin – brother to Adelia (Staffin) Briggs.  Cora and William had (I believe) four children, including Marion Staffin, Charleton W. Staffin, Burton W. Staffin, and Burnell E. Staffin.  Somewhere along the line, I do not have an exact record of at least one generation of the family, somewhere in-between Anna Staffin marrying Edward C. Ritter.  I do know, however, that Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s grandchildren included Sara Jane Staffin, Mary Ann Staffin, Robert C. Staffin, and Norman R. Staffin.  I just don’t know whose children they were – Charleton’s, Burton’s, or Burnell’s.

Marion Staffin married, though I do not know what her married name was.  I believe that they had a daughter or granddauther, possibly named, Anna, and she married Ed Ritter.  Ed Ritter, to my knowledge, had several siblings, including Fritz Ritter, Herbert Ritter, Mrs. Hoyt Prince, Mrs. Guy Hickey, Mrs. Clarence Simmons, and possibly another sister and another brother, though I am unsure of their names.  Ed and Anna Ritter did not have any children.  To my knowledge, Ed was a butcher, and I have a tin type of him reflecting that.

My Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, standing at left; Others Unknown. Circa 1870-1880.

Tin Type of my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, Standing at Left; Others Unknown, North Collins, New York. Circa 1900-1910.

This is a tin type that shows my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, as a young man, possibly around 1900-1910.  I do not know the identities of the other young men in the image.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo shows my 15 additional tin types from my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, NY, Circa 1930-1940

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, New York, Circa 1930-1940

My great great grandfather owned and operated an ice carting business in North Collins, New York.  He transported blocks of ice to people’s homes for their use in refrigeration, such as in their root cellars.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890 (Photo Taken in Springville, New York)

This is a photo of Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and possibly Howard Briggs, from North Collins, New York around 1890.  It is the best photo that I have of them as young boys.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

From what I understood from my grandmother, this photo was supposed to be a silly picture of three of these Briggs’ young men.  They went on an outing and had several different photos made on this day, reflecting different backgrounds and venues.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

This is a photo of my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, as a baby in 1912 in North Collins, New York.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

In this photo, my grandmother was about two years old.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

This is a photo of my grandmother either on the day of her engagement or wedding to my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock.

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

This is the only photo that I have that shows both of my great grandparents, Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, in the same photo.  This was taken in 1946 in Collins, New York at the childhood home of my father, Bruce Babcock.

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, New York, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

This is a photo of John Briggs, a brother of my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, from North Collins, New York in 1917 before he went off to fight in World War I.  There were several Briggs’ brothers who fought in the War, and they all returned home alive.

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

This is a photo of identical twins, Marie and Veronica Briggs, from April 1941.  They are daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs of North Collins.  David Briggs was the son of Ivan and Louise, and died while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. For many years, there was a memorial to David outside the front of the Catholic Church in North Collins, New York.

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Here is  another photo of the twins.  They were about three-years-old in this picture. Veronica was named after her grandmother, Veronica.

I hope that you have enjoyed viewing these photos.  I will make additional posts with photos that reflect the others of my ancestral families that I identified, shortly.

References and Sources:

Anna Emerling Spengler (~1980).  The Emerling Family Tree: Chapter 7 – The Staffins.  Springville/Collins, New York.

Family tin types, photos, and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

The Name and Family of Briggs: Manuscript Number 341 (1984).  New York, NY: Roots Research Bureau, Ltd.

Wentland Funeral Home (1968).  Funeral Card of David I. Briggs.  North Collins, NY: Wentland Funeral Home.

“Poland and my Polish Heritage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

My grandparents (now deceased) on my mother’s side were pure-blooded Poles, having left Poland and immigrating to Germany before coming to Ellis Island around 1950.  My Polish-American grandmother was Władysława, or “Lottie,” and my Polish-American grandfather was Janek, or John.  I never knew either of my grandfathers as they both died before I was born.  Grandfather John died following a two year battle with cancer, possibly brought on by working with the many chemicals at the Tannery in Gowanda, New York, where he lived.  Both of my grandparents worked very hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of four children, one being my mother.  Sometimes, my grandmother worked two or three jobs at a time, such as waitressing at a local restaurant and tending plants at a local nursery.

Life was not easy for my Polish-American grandparents who left Europe after World War II.  But, they left because they did not want to take the chance of experiencing another Great War, and they wanted better opportunities for their children.  After all, America was the country that was flowing with “milk and honey,” as they had heard.  For two people who did not have more than an elementary or middle school education, nor knew any English upon setting foot in the United States, they certainly worked hard and did the best they could.  Sponsorship of their family by cousins already in America helped pave the way for a different fate for their family than occurred for the siblings of my grandparents still in Poland.

My grandfather was one of about 10 children in his family.  I remember being told that his mother apparently told him when he was a young man that no woman would want to marry him because he had a glass eye.  In those days in Poland, being poor and having a disability meant having fewer opportunities, as well as potentially being a societal outcast.  When I think of such a statement, now, I think of how ridiculous it sounds, particularly with so many people who have disabilities making the best of their lives.

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

My grandmother was the middle child in a family of three daughters.  Her sisters were Staca (pronounced “Stashia”) and Marianna.  Many years ago, Marianna visited and stayed with my grandmother for three months in the United States on a temporary visa.  And, many years following that, I had the privilege of studying at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and seeing her again!  As a senior at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, I participated in the popular study abroad program to the Jagiellonian University in 1992.

In the midst of studying intensive Polish language at the Jagiellonian – with the intention of being able to properly communicate with my Polish relatives in Poland – I sent a postcard to Marianna.  A few days later, Marianna and her family arrived at my dormitory building, surprisingly unannounced, and took me out for the day.  I then made plans to visit them for a weekend, and got to meet 15 of my Polish relatives in Poland, including Marianna’s family, the Drewin’s, who lived in Kielce.  It was wonderful to see and visit with them all, and to provide monies to them that I brought specifically for them from the family at home.

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Studying in Poland at the Jagiellonian University was a wonderful experience.  If I could have the opportunity to do it all over again (and at the same age as I was at the time), I would.  Studying abroad in Poland was highly recommended to me by my fellow student colleagues who were members of the University at Buffalo Polish Club.  Many of them lauded praises about the program.  Because so many of them said such great things about their experiences, I decided to apply for the opportunity to go.  It was very exciting to be accepted into the program, and to have taken the opportunity to go there.

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Poland, I did much sight-seeing with my English-speaking (mostly composed of Americans) study group at the Jagiellonian University.  We visited the historic Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mines, the religious pilgrimage destination of Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa,  and had regular opportunities to see Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and visit Krakow’s main market square.

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

On my own, I also traveled to and visited Berlin, Germany during one weekend; and with a student colleague, I went to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia, for another weekend.  On yet another weekend, the same student colleague and I visited Vienna.  I found Berlin to be a historic city, one in which a person could still obviously observe the differences between the former West and East Germanies.  And, Prague is just an amazingly beautiful and historic city, with many historic structures still standing, having not been demolished in previous wars.  Vienna was an incredibly beautiful city, also being extremely modernized and commercialized.

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

I have many memories of my time spent studying abroad and travelling in Europe.  I had such a wonderful experience in studying abroad that I returned to Europe two years later.  At that time, I travelled with my mom through the British Isles, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Following that, I went solo, traveling through many European countries.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Europe in 1994, I used my Brit Rail and Eurail passes to travel by train, everywhere.  I traveled lightly with only a couple of bags, and remained in Europe for about one month.  In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.  I would definitely do it all over again if I ever had the opportunity.

I am very proud of my family, my ancestors, and my Polish-American heritage.  While there are additional nationalities in my make-up from which I am descended, the Polish part of me is the strongest next to that of being American.  I am thankful that my Polish-American grandparents had the fortitude and courage to come to America, where they succeeded in creating a better life for their family, and their descendants to come.