This is a guest post by my niece, Fredi Seraydarian, who visited Poland in 2015 with her family. One of the towns they explored is Bilgoraj, the city where my great-grandmother came from.
Greetings from Bilgoraj, Poland. It’s the town my great-great-grandmother (your great-grandmother) left in 1880 to start a new life in New York. Bilgoraj looks like the other small towns we saw in Poland with a town square, onion-domed churches, utilitarian Soviet-era apartments and run-down storefronts.
There’s no evidence of the previous Jewish residents, who either fled or died at the hands of the Nazis, who burned down the town during World War II. I googled Bilgoraj and learned that Isaac Bashevis Singer lived there, and Harvey Keitel’s father was also from there.
In the town square we found a left-over Soviet metal sculpture that must have honored a past something or someone. A man we met said it commemorated their brave Polish heroes, but that once the Soviets left it represented just about everyone for just about anything. The ultimate in adaptability.
This is what passed for fashion in small-town Poland.
Typical of towns in Eastern Poland, there are a multitude of ornate churches with onion domes and Russian Orthodox crosses.
I discovered where your love of poppy-seed pastry comes from. We saw it all over Poland, fresh and yummy.
And speaking of food, check out the typo on the orange Pierogi sign.
Here’s a list of Bilgoraj’s sister cities from around the world, including one in Israel. Definitely a sign of the new Poland. ~~ Love, Fredi
So excited you could see the town where my great-grandmother and your great-great-grandmother came from. You are named for Grandpa Fred, her youngest son. I never met him, but your mom and all the other cousins adored him. My great-grandmother, Pauline Mittler, was famous in New York as the midwife who brought a whole generation of Jewish babies into the world, including people like Leonard Bernstein and New York Senator Jacob Javits. She lived to be 102. ~ Ellen
I love the postcard concept — informative and personal at the same time. More please.
Thankfully we avoided the witch-meat pierogis, it was a close one. Great post! I am excited to read more (and send you some postcards)!!
Thanks Beth. I’m also glad you avoided the witch-meat pierogis. Who knows what might have happened. I can see an old-school Disney cartoon now with lots spiraling neon green craziness as the witch emerges from the pierogi just when you take your first bite.
Haha, we definitely had our fill of pierogis on the trip, so that really would have put me over the edge!
Great blog! I’m looking forward to learning about more hidden places. Bilgoraj was one of those, made even more meaningful since it was where one of your and Fredi’s ancestors was from.