In many ways, the visit to Ząb is the highlight of any trip back to Poland. As the most elevated village in Poland, Ząb (Polish for “tooth”) offers incredible views; as K’s mother’s home village, it offers wonderful visits with family.
The views are indeed spectacular. From a field called Formanowa, the Tatra Mountains stretch out in their entirety just a few kilometers away.
It’s a beautiful spot, and it’s still — for now — only used as a hay field. Certainly it’s the most valuable hay field in the world: I’m sure there are many developers who would be more than happy to build on land with such a view.
For now now, it’s a spot for taking portraits
and picking flowers for great-grandmother.
“When you see great-grandmother, don’t be afraid,” K explains. L has had very little experience with the elderly, and we don’t know how she might react. It turns out our worries were for naught. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There were still more pictures to take and flowers to pick.
When we arrive K’s godmother’s home, we find Prababcia (great-grandmother). L immediately follows, holding the flowers out in front of her, offering them to Prababcia. For now, Prababcia is simply tired and wants to sit down.
As K and Prababcia sit in her room, Prababcia begins to tell stories about the Second World War. Stories about the Nazis demanding information about the number of Jews and Gypsies in Ząb and the leader of the village plainly lying: “There are no Jews here, nor Gyspies,” though there were a few of each. Stories of villagers being arrested, hung, tortured, and shot. Stories of survival.
L and Prababcia hit it off immediately. When the rest of the family arrives, and we go to the living room to sit and talk, Prababcia and L retreat back to Prababcia’s room. L prances and dances about the room, singing, “My kochamy ciebie.” “We love you.” Prababcia sits and smiles, then gets up to tickle L. Fortunately, I’m passing through the hallway, near the camera bag.
A visit with an uncle who still lives in the family home (“This is where grandma grew up,” K explains to L as we enter.) brings the day to a close. The only thing that could make it better is a perfect sunset.