Boba's little village

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of Poland  , Podlasie Voivodship,
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yesterday we checked out of out room not a moment before we had to, taking every advantage of every moment in a comfortable place slightly cooler then the heat of the day. Before heading off we spent another hour or so in the restaurant sampling some more delicious (and very cheap) Lithuanian meals. Felix spent many hours the night before trying to track down records of his family from Poland and while we ate spent some more time calling family at home to try and get some useful information about the village and house where his grandmother was born and lived before coming to Australia to avoid the war.

 He managed to find out the name of the town and from family who had visited before and a vague description of where the house was located in the village.He also had a very old picture of the family sitting in front of the house taken sometime in the early nineteen thirties. There was very little of the house in the picture as the main subject was the family sitting in front of it, so only the top of a window frame and half a door is not much to look back on for comparison. 

 From the motel it took us two days of gentle riding to get to Rutki. We arrived about four o’clock and had not eaten anything all day so the first thing we did was go to a little ‘Sklep’ and buy some bread, cheese, sausage, and tomatoes. We then went into the village centre and had a picnic in the grass under some trees. 

 When we were finished eating we went off in search of Boba’s house. The directions from Felix’s cousin said the house was on a small road, (not the main road) and they had come up to a T intersection and it was in front of them. Using ‘navi’ as a guide to the town layout we began systematically checking every T intersection. After about half an hour of walking around we found a house that looked like it could have been the one. But on closer inspection, we noticed it was subtly different in the way the boards lined up with the door frame and window.

 And so we kept looking. We went all the way down to the cemetery where we met an old couple who didn’t recognise the house. We went to the edge of the village an then headed back towards the centre. As we approached the main road, a very old lady was hanging over her fence and beckoning to us. She was like the old witch or wise woman out of fairytale. She was wearing a bright floral smock and a kerchief on her head. She had dark sun-worn skin, a slightly hooked nose and a few wisps of grey hair escaping. She was the perfect babushka. She was leaning out over the fence towards me so far I thought she might topple over it if she stretched the littlest bit further. She was trying to say something to us but as neither Felix nor I can speak and Polish, let alone some old dialect, had no idea what she was saying. We kept saying and gesturing that we didn’t understand but she didn’t seem to mind or understand and just kept trying to tell us whatever it was.

 We showed her the picture of the house and even though we didn’t understand her answer it seemed she didn’t really know. But maybe she did as she was still trying to tell us something. Just then two girls came walking along the road and the lady started calling out to them, they came over and shyly spoke english and translated a few things the lady was saying. Felix explained to the girls what we were doing here. They didn’t know of the house but called one of their friends who could speak better english and maybe could understand what we wanted better.

 A few moments later a boy came riding towards us on a bike. He spoke english very, very well, especially for his age. Felix explained again what we were doing here and after talking with the girls for a while he suggested we go across the road to where a historian lived - maybe he knew something. 

 The boy, Marcin and the historian talked for ages and ages and ages after Felix explained again what we were looking for. Finally, he told us, translated though Marcin, he didn’t know of the family or where the house was but suggested we go to an old lady in the village who might remember something. With the two girls and Marcin we wondered back through the village. 

 On the way we met one of the girls’ father, to whom we also showed the photo, then the mother came over, another man and another young boy. They all looked at the photo and talked and talked - all the while we were standing in the middle of the street. Then the father took the photo and started walking across the street to another house, gesturing we follow. Across the road his mother lived and maybe she would remember the family and where they lived. 

 Unfortunately even after telling her every name and detail of the Rostkier family, she didn’t remember or know anything of them. Then one of the girls suggested we look in her brothers collection of old photos, maybe there was something in there that could help. There was a lot of talking between the locals that we didn’t follow but next they had arranged for us to meet Marcin’s older brothers, Lukasz and Michal. We waited for them outside a little shop and when they arrived an older man also came over so we showed him the photo too.

 And then finally we got some answers! The old man was sure the house we were looking for was the one we were standing right across the street from - now with a new brick structure surrounding it to make it a new shop front. The man said about four or five years ago the place had been renovated and turned into a shop. 

 So there were a few kinks in the information we had been given from various sources. The directions from Felix’s uncle have led us to believe they found the same house we did at first and must have thought it was the one, but the reasons the old man gave for the one now turned into a shop to be the one were very sound, so we’re not really sure what is the truth. Where Boba really was born, I think is mystery that may never be solved.

 Now we had some kind of conclusion for our pilgrimage to Rutki and as an extra bonus we were invited to the culture centre to look at some old photos of the village.  After looking at the pictures Lukasz wanted to interview Felix about the family history, the were planning to put together some kind of presentation about the history of Rutki. They started the interview just by taking notes but then thought it would be better to interview Felix on video. 

 Around ten PM we finally said good-bye and thanked them all profusely for their help. The boys directed us to a forest where we could sleep the night, where we have set up as far away from all the disposable nappies and other rubbish chucked into the bushes as is possible. No, apart from all the rubbish it is a really nice forest and a lovely warm night - apparently a storm is brewing.
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