Before this trip, I last visited England in my late 20's. At that time, I knew little of the circumstances surrounding my parents meeting at the dance in Haverigg, and starting a new life together in my mother's birthplace. Now enlightened with their story, the Lake District landscape appeared more vivid, the people of Cumbria more connected to my past, and family members closer.
The road to Millom, with the Sea's tide visible in the Bay.
The cemetery where my grandmother Mary "Minnie" Graham is buried. Here I fulfilled a promise that I made on the last page of my book's epilogue.
My Uncle Wilf. The family lost touch with him shortly after the War, and nobody learned of his whereabouts or fate. But his colorful spirit lives with us forever.
Over two dozen locals from Millom showed up at the town library for my book talk, most of them with a Polish friend or family member who settled in Millom after the War. Unfortunately, I have no photos during the talk, but this group showed up about 30 minutes early. During the talk, tea was served and the group sat perfectly silent until I completed, followed by warm applause and enthusiastic discussion.
This is Ida, the friendly girl who befriended my mother upon her arrival at the new school in Millom, as told in the book. She was surprised when she met me, apparently thinking that the son of Iris would be much shorter. I don't think she wanted us to leave.
The tide is out along the Haverigg shore. My mother and her cousins spent many hours together on the bluffs in the background, where the Barrow shipyards sit across the Bay and the Isle of Man is visible on a clear day.
The church spire in Millom was a comforting landmark to find my way on the walk from Haverigg.
Following Danusia and Nick (with Molly) for a morning walk.
When not carting me around Millom and the Lake District, cousin David was helping with research, getting us into some humorous situations, and acting as my partner in crime. As they say in England, "well done ol' boy"
On Tuesday, July 4, the audience from my father's hometow of Bochnia arrived early to hear a presentation of my book, Captured in Liberation. Seated in the front rows were family members from Bochnia and surrounding cities, and filling the room (and adjoining room) were townsfolk. As the head librarian introduced me to the audience with a copy of my book in hand and my interpreter to my right, it started to feel surreal to me that I would soon share a story that I only learned about 4 years ago in the location where so much of the story takes place.... the story of my father during World War II.
Throughout the presentation, my father, mother, sisters Julie and Celia, and daughters Brittany and Lauren watched through Skype. Following the formal talk, we put them on the big screen so the audience could see them and ask my father questions. I was then presented with beautiful symbolic gifts from family members and the librarian, who obviously read the story to realize how much her gifts would mean to me.
Following an hour of signing books with hugs and laughs mixed in with a few tears, some family members from Bochnia of course suggested that we top off the evening at a local restaurant. It was an evening that I will forever remember, and many others echoed the same sentiments.
The town of Bochnia lies about 30 miles east of this mound outside of Krakow. looking south are the Carpathian Mountains, the Tatras are the highest range that can be seen toward the right of this photo. My father and Artur began their quest to join Anders Army from Bochnia, and it took two days to reach these mountains. From their, they crossed the mountains, into Slovakia. In two days, I will share this story to the residents of Bochnia.
My cousin Marian greeted me in Bochnia, and immediately took we on a tour of the town, where I soon began to realize the significance and meaning of the presentation he has arranged. He seems to know everyone in the city, and everywhere we went he broke into conversation, introducing me and explaining the upcoming talk. Many people were quite interested and other mentioned that they were already aware and planned on attending.
This gentleman was walking across the street, and shouted over that he has seen me on the internet, and also the video with my father. He walked over to share the importance of preserving Polish history, and told me that he would also attend. He was both surprised and pleased when I told him that I'd like to take his photo.
Author - Andrew Bajda
Since publication of my book in December of 2016, so many amazing things have happened on both a personal and professional level. As the journey continues to evolve, I'll update my travel adventures on this blog, and invite you to join me along the way.