Tag Archives: Poland

Thinking of Krakow

A blogger I follow does a Thursday Door post, and I decided to post some of my door pictures. In looking through photos for some of my door pictures, I came across these pics from a trip to Krakow, Poland. The city offers beauty at every turn. (When I find my door pictures, I will post them).

Garden in Krakow
Flowers decorate Krakow buildings
One of many decorated pianos honoring Chopin.
A flower shop in Krakow
A flower shop in Krakow
Wawel Castle in Krakow

Reinventing myself

An entry on my affirmation calendar read, I enjoy reinventing myself. It’s like giving my identity a makeover!

When I moved back to Michigan almost nine years ago, I had planned to use my Polish name instead of the English translation—Magdalena instead of Madeline, or Magda for short. I had recently been to Poland and everyone there called me either Magdalena or Magda, and I liked it.

My grandfather used to call me Magdusha—a twist on my Polish name and a term of endearment. I liked that, too.

But I was deep in grief when I moved here, and I forgot to introduce myself as Magdalena or Magda, and before I knew it, everyone called me by my English name.

A few years later, though, I started taking Polish classes at a nearby Polish church, and there I was known by my Polish name. Happy day!

This calendar affirmation took me back to that desire to reinvent myself more in line with my Polish heritage. As I reflected on that identity, though, another reinvention occurred to me—to be reinvented in the image God holds for me.

Isaiah 62:3 came to mind: You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

I remember the first time I read these words as a young adult and felt they were being spoken to me and about me. The image of myself in the hand of God, something bejeweled and beautiful, sparkling diamonds and deep green emeralds. That was how God saw me—as something to behold, someone who took one’s breath away.

Living as if I see myself as a crown or diadem is a stretch. I have usually seen myself more as a dull pewter, so adapting a shinier persona calls for a shift in my thinking.

Perhaps being connected to my Polish heritage is part of that new image because when I am connected to my ancestors, I have a wider and deeper understanding of who I am and where I came from—and a different way of knowing myself.

Perhaps leaning into the image of myself as being held in God’s hand is also key, because that image leads me to live in trust rather than fear. God has me, I tell myself.

Not having a job has reinvented me into a woman with time and freedom to structure my days as I please, to do the things I want and not do those I don’t.

The passing years are reinventing me into an elder, and aging has its own reinvention process.

Speaking publicly about my abuse history has shown me a courage I did not know I possessed—add that to the mix.

These past six months, I have been on sabbatical, resting, reading, writing—and pondering who I will be and how I will live this next chapter of my life.

Reinvented, sparkly as diamonds on a tiara—I want to be brilliant.


Making plans

My childhood was somewhat chaotic, and I learned early on that planning something did not necessarily mean it would happen. There were too many moving parts and too many things that were beyond my mother’s control. My takeaway was, don’t bother to plan because whatever I plan is unlikely to happen.

I took that belief into adulthood, and it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I planned my first vacation—a windjammer cruise in Maine. I made the initial deposit in January, for a trip that was to happen in August, and then I waited for whatever was going to go wrong to go wrong.

Everything went according to plan, though, until the day my friend and I were driving north on I-95 and an overturned truck somewhere in Connecticut closed the expressway for five hours. Fortunately, I had planned an extra day, so we still had plenty of time to get to Maine, board the Schooner J & E Riggin and have a wonderful week of sailing along the coast.

Schooner J&E Riggin

My childhood belief was shattered by that trip. It turned out I could plan a vacation and it would happen.

Since then, I have planned and taken many trips. Sometimes there are hitches (like the time I miscalculated the twenty-four-hour clock conversion and almost missed my plane to Poland), but I take the attitude that everything that happens is part of the adventure (like the time I missed a connection in Heathrow and was invited to stay for afternoon prayer in the chapel).

Fast forward to the year I was to turn sixty and began to plan how I would celebrate that milestone birthday. I decided on two things—a return trip to Poland and a thirty-day silent retreat (something I had wanted to do for about fifteen years but having the time and money had not coincided).

I spent a few months of that year exploring options, and then, about four months before my birthday, my best friend was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of a non-curable brain cancer. Suddenly, my plans seemed inconsequential and were set aside.

Jim and I celebrated my sixtieth birthday at a friend’s condo overlooking the Jersey Shore, and when the dolphins appeared mid-afternoon, Jim said, “They are singing happy birthday to you.” It was the last birthday I celebrated with him.

Ten years have passed, and I have still not returned to Poland nor gone on a thirty-day retreat; I have done other travel but neither of those.

Now I am looking forward to turning seventy in the fall and thinking how I will celebrate this milestone. I am planning to go to Europe for an extended time in 2022 and am enjoying the researching and planning, fully aware that there are many moving parts and things that are beyond my control.

Cancer and COVID have taught me to live life to the full. It is good to make plans—and to remember to let go of control and enjoy the adventure.


My grandparents all came from Poland, and my desire to visit my ancestral home has been with me since I was a child. I had asked my mother to take me to Poland as a college graduation gift, and the trip was on—until martial law was declared in Poland my senior year, and the trip was off.

It took me another thirty years to get to Poland. Once there, I realized that Polish people thought I was one of them. Time after time, people in shops and restaurants spoke Polish to me, even after I explained I did not speak Polish. How I looked was more convincing than what I said. I felt I had come home.

The next year, I returned to Poland for an immersion language course, and I stayed with a host family. Again, I had a strong sense of belonging. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who looked like my relatives, and I was continually doing double-takes.

On that second trip, I decided I wanted to go a third time—an extended trip (maybe even a few months) to see more of the country and visit the places my grandparents came from.

Then life intervened, and ten years have passed without a return trip to Poland.

I recently attended a workshop on Empowerment, and the presenter asked us to write down what we hoped to accomplish in 2021 and why. The why part intrigued me.

I remembered something from adult education theory about how adults need a reason to learn something. Unlike children, who can soak up random knowledge just because they are told to, adults need a reason. We need to see that what we are learning will help us in some way, often help us achieve a goal, and the goal must have a purpose.

In adult education, we tried to help people who needed a GED or were learning English to see how their lives would be improved by achieving their goals. Writing down their goals and their reasons for the goals helped keep them on track.

I have been studying Polish off and on for the past ten years because I want to be able to communicate my basic needs when I go back to Poland (mainly things like making sure the doughnut I pick has the filling I want).


During the Empowerment workshop, I shared my desire to go to Poland, and the presenter asked why I had not done it. I had not given much thought to the reason behind my procrastination, but in that moment, I could see it was not just life intervening, but also unconscious messages were stopping me from achieving this goal.

The presenter suggested some possible reasons: I don’t deserve it, or I fear people’s judgment or I am scared of failure. All possible for me.

After ten years of saying I want to return to Poland, my goal for 2021 is to plan the trip and be ready to take off in 2022.


The statue

On my first trip to Poland, I visited the Wilanow Palace, not far from Warsaw. It is a museum now that tells the story of a grand lifestyle of long-ago kings.

Just outside the grounds of the Palace is St. Anne’s Church, which serves as a parish church rather than a tourist attraction. Like other churches I visited, this one is full of beautiful artwork–paintings on the walls, carvings and traditional statuary.

And then, I came upon this statue, and I have never forgotten it.

Statue in St. Anne’s, Church, near Wilanow Palace, Poland