Monday, June 15, 2009


Goral, never regret,never forget, the pastures, the land that you left, the land of your beginning. Goralu czy ci nie zal. I am dumbfounded at my absence. Absence from a heritage that has been calling from my youth. I recall many times, wondering why. I still do wonder. I have some comfort now though. Goralu czy ci nie zal. I've said before that my Mom, and her siblings, never really knew where their folks were from in Poland. Only to reminisce and tell us that my Grandmom said,"Mom always said, that my Father was a mountain man!" How right they were. Embracing my heritage has been an experience. An unfinished experience,but an experience none the less. Consider that having the opportunity to reflect on ones heritage can be a daunting task, I have found peace and tranquility. While I may be in my middle years, and by that I mean that it's taken me this long to address this wonderful realization about my Highlander roots, I have been foolish to wait so long. Life in America has been a good one. I obviously have no other place to compare to. Not even Poland and Ukraine, my Galician make up. What I can say though, is that to adhere to the Goral way, is a good way. It is not simply a way of going about your daily routine and enriching yourself with all of whatever pleases you, but more of a "What can I do that would not only help us, but would help all!" Many young Poles came to America prior to the first world war. Some, even to fight for human rights in the Revolution. Were it not for Thaddeus Kosciusko, there would be no West Point and perhaps no America. This young Pole was the foremost tactical engineer of this monumental struggle and a friend to colonists. They would never forget. Lest we. I would encourage anyone to investigate the life of Kosciusko, he was truly a remarkable man with a genuine purpose and spirit whose entire life was spent advancing the cause in the name of liberty for people of all races and creeds getting nothing in return but the satisfaction of doing what was right and proper. Below you will find the lyrics for todays title in both Polish and a rough English translation. The reason is for reflection and thought. When you read it you will realize the sadness that one might have to leave the homeland out of necessity and not necessarily desire. Pictured, my Grandfather Joseph Planiczka, the first Goral from our family to arrive in America in 1904. The next photo, A Goral horseman today in Dolina Chocholowska.

Polish Lyrics:Góralu, czy ci nie żal,odchodić od stron ojczystych,Świerkowych lasów i halI tych potoków srebrzystych?
Góralu czy ci nie żal? Góralu wrycaj do hal! Góralu czy ci nie żal? Góralu wrycaj do hal!
Góral na góry spoziera,I łzy rękawem ociera,I góry porzucić trzeba,Dla chleba, Panie, dla chleba.
Góralu czy ci nie żal? Góralu wrycaj do hal! Góralu czy ci nie żal? Góralu wrycaj do hal!

English Translation:
Highlander, don't you feel sad? To leave your native lands,From the green forests and meadows and the silvery streams?
Highlander, don't you feel sad? Highlander, return to the meadows! Highlander, don't you feel sad? Highlander, return to the meadows!
The highlander gazes back to the mountains and wipes away a tear with his sleeve,because he must leave the mountains,for bread,for bread.
Highlander, don't you feel sad? Highlander, return to the meadows! Highlander, don't you feel sad? Highlander, return to the meadows!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A symbol of tranquility. A symbol of frailty. A symbol of remembrance. A symbol of gratitude and thanks. The Cross of Jesus passed down from Jan Planiczka to son Maciej, to grandson Jozef,displayed in the family home until this day. The bell tower, a chapel and multi purpose structure in remembrance of those who founded and went forth from this small Galician hamlet. I am one from the fourth generation. With tranquility I look upon this structure in awe. In awe for what it means. This structure, a replacement for the original which burned down of unknown means, replaces the original which stood for centuries. For centuries it stood as its purpose intended. To protect and warn of immanent danger approaching. Many small towns in southern Poland,Slovakia and Ukraine have similar structures. They too have similar meaning. For me, I take solace and experience the warmth of my heritage. Knowing that Jan Planiczka along with Anna Gawlak his bride,my Great-Grandmother, brought forth not only a family, but contributed to building a culture of comfort, fortitude,compassion, unquestionable dignity,faith and the ability to persevere. This brings me to tranquility. I would hope this would effect you in the same way.

I haven't written in a few days. I want you to know, that I would like to continue and have every intent to do so. Circumstances as they are,have prevented me. The loss of Sally,our very best friend, to breast cancer,Vinnie a humble man and great friend, of yet whose death cause is unknown,and my cousin Tommy, a free spirited individual with a bright mind and wit. This was and is sad.

Life indeed is fragile. We do continue though. From my earliest documentation, I know that we are a frail people. As descendants we do move on with the rest of mankind though. We have seen many family pass. Yet our heritage continues.

Four Hundred years. Koniowka, Jan Planiczka, God Bless

Monday, May 25, 2009


Goral, a proud people. My heritage. I am descended from a strong lot. Until now not known by anyone. My Mother,Aunts,Uncles,Cousins,Friends. Unknown to all. I'm glad to have made this journey. I've always been curious as to why my Grandparents never explained to their children where they came from. Why is it that they didn't see the importance of their heritage? Perhaps it is something as simple as their own need to move forward. Times prior to world war one were indeed turbulent. All four of my Grandparents left for America prior to the age of twenty. None returned to their homeland, ever. A full generation plus one later, I would return. I return home to America the same man who left ten days ago, only now with a penchant to return once again to Podhale. I want to sing the Gorale song. To walk again among the people who so lovingly embraced me. To hear the sound of the horses shoes in perfect cadence on the road as the Highlander begins his day. The sheep resting peacefully in the field as the Tatra herding dogs keep their watch. If this weren't enough, my friends, my Gorale friends in Austria assured that I would realize my gorale roots. Young Klara, delighted us with a smile that radiates the room like the suns rising over the mountains mist and a song or two on her violin in perfect concentration. She is a bright young girl and joy to know. Bartosz was eager to take us on a tour throughout Vienna via the lite rail and subway. He knows the city quite well for his fourteen years. I think he enjoyed learning about youth in America just as much as we enjoyed listening to him tell us about Vienna! Eva, who touched my heart so when she presented to me a small medallion of Pope John Paul the second from his visit to Zakopane her hometown and said "Give this to your Mother,this is for her." My good friend Bogdan, without whose help, none of this trip would have been possible. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. We share a common bond other than our interest in genealogy. We are Gorale and know well the Gorale toast. My cousin Zosia, coy and shy, fearful of her lack of command for the English language, went out of her way to do her best in making our time in Koniowka a memorable one. We shared many pictures and laughs. Joseph, her Father and my Mothers first cousin, made sure we were comfortable. None of us could speak to each other. You would never know had you been peeking through the window. I can't close today's blog without mentioning Stanislaw and Anna Zubek. Stanislaw is the son of Rosalia my Grandfathers sister. Anna is his wife. Father Jan Zubek, his brother. The language barrier existed here as well. There is one difference though. We sang the Gorale song. Anna began, and then like many other times, we wept. With tears of joy we bid farewell to Koniowka. Gorale Gorale.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The sun sets over the the lower Tatras as we make our way back to Dolina Chocholowoska after our long day in Krakow,Auschwitz and Wadowiesce. I'm a day or two behind on the blog due mostly to internet interruption and human fatigue!! There is nothing really nice to say about Auschwitz so all I will say is that it is probably the ugliest example of mans inhumanity to man that I have ever seen. I'll move on. First I'd like to explain that one of the requirements of attaining 50 years+ in the priesthood is the development of the ability to not eat,drink or use the toalety for nearly 8 hours. Father Zubek has attained this. We had to laugh. Every time I mentioned the water closet, father said no! It took me almost 8 hours to figure out that he thought that I was asking if HE had to use the bathroom. Only after I started to do the PP dance did we finally find the WC and relief. Krakow is a beautiful city. An architectural wonder. Our highlight was The Cathedral Wawelowska. Sitting within the castle on Wawel hill it is a magnificent place. We even got inside for free as Father said something to the guard who originally was insisting that we purchase tickets but what ever Jan Zubek said to him was enough for him to sheepishly lower his head and step aside. Inside this cathedral were many sarcophagi of Polish nobility as well as former Bishops of Krakow dating to pre 14th century.Very gold and Hungarian marble, and even Russian paintings mostly depicting the apostles and Christ. These survived communism, Thank God! We were unable to take photos here. In Wadowiece we saw the birthplace of Pope John Paul 2 and every place he hung his hat from Wadowiece to Krakow!The Popes birthplace is also pictured in todays blog. I will write more soon

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I am up early 500am, showererd and ready to greet the day. The sheep are still sleeping accross the street. The Tatras herding dogs are keeping their watch on the sheep as well as me! They are a beautiful breed. Snowy white, fluffy and fury with kind and keen eyes. We will be picking Fr. Zubek up in Witow and then on to pick up Zosia in Koniowka. From there we leave for Aushwitz and Krakow. It will be a long day. I'm hoping to post later if time allows. If not you will hear from me tomorrow. The church records are yet to come but I am like a child with Christmas morning anticipation. Thats it for now. Talk to you later.


Today was a day of ancestral breakthroughs. We arrived back to Koniowka this morning and sat with with my Grandfather Josef Planiczka's nephew Stanislaw Zubek and his wife Anna. We would wait for the arrival of Zosia who would be bringing Fr. Jan from the overnight train. While we waited, we viewed old photos that they had. Verifying what we now already know, were some photos of Walter Planiczka in his service uniform as well as a photo of Leo Planiczka in his. It is wonderful to know that my Grandfather had communicated with his brother back in Koniowka during his life at some point. The photos may have been brought back by Fr. Zubek when he visited back in 1973. I was unable to verify this though. Upon Fr. Zubek's arrival, following the now customary tears from Bill, we proceded to enjoy chocolates,cheese,cookies,coffee and a customary shot of brandy. During this time Fr Zubek brought out his photos, and I displayed mine as well. He was very excited to be doing this. He remembers very well my Mom, Aunts Elizabeth,Caroline,Frances and Aunt Sophie. He knew Aunt Sophie had past many years ago. I explained to him that Aunts Caroline and Frances had gone to Jesus as had their husbands. He understood. A very nice surprize though was a photo that he had of Aunt Fran, Claudia, and a very young Gina. I explained to him, Gina, that you have grown into a wonderful woman. We were unable to access the church today as quite honestly, the priest wasn't home. Fr. Zubek also served in this parish some years ago. We will go here again late tomorrow after our return from Aushwitz and Krakow or on Thursday if need be. We did visit the cemetary today with Fr. Jan. Here we found much Planiczka/Zubek information. It is too much to post here right now but I will compile it soon. Fr. Zubek thinks I should write a book about us! Imagine that. He is serious though and is prety insistant to have a copy sent to him with our history. I will in time accomodate him. It's the least I could do as a Goral from America! The photo today is Fr.Jan Zubek and I at the entrance to the cemetary at Chocholowa. The monumet is for Pope John 11 and shows His Papal Cross.

Bill Zosia


The land of my heritage. Our drive was beautiful. Leaving Vienna and travelling through Slovakia we arrived in Koniowka At about 0300pm. All of Koniowka are aware of our coming according to the little old women with the babushka whom we encountered upon our arrival. As soon as we met Zosia, our language barrier quickly broke down as I began to cry. I just couldn't help it. We did a lot of that and then many many laughs as our first meeting progressed. We stayed about 2 hours and then went on to get our room at Dolina Chocholowa at the foot of the Tatras. We will return with our rental car after a good nights sleep to Koniowka for yet another surprize. Father Jan Zubek is taking the night train from Szechein. He will arrive early and will stay for the next few days to accompany us to the church in Chocholow and go with us to Aushwitz and Krakow. Zosia will come too. I will post more later. This is only the beginning