Trip to Poland: June 13, 1937 - Krakow

[Travel Diary Entry]

6-13-1937 /
Krakow, Hotel Grand /
Population 250,000 /

Wawel / Groby / Kosciol Maryanski / Drukarnia

6-13-1937 /
Krakow, Hotel Grand /
Population 250,000 /

Wawel / Graveyard / St. Mary's Church / Printers

(Image Attribution: KHRoN Polish Wikipedia; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)

Trip to Poland: June 12, 1937 - Katowice

Hotel Monopol
[Travel Diary Entry]

June 12 - 1937 /
Katowice /
Hotel Monopol / Population / Museum / Polytecnic (sic)  / Katowice jest Gorny Slask / Wojewodzwto Samdzielne

June 12 - 1937 /
Katowice / 
Hotel Monopol / Population / Museum / Polytechnic (sic) / Katowice is Upper Silesia / Voivodeship [Province] Self reliant or Independent

(Image Wikipedia, Creative Commons; Text, Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)

Trip to Poland: June 12, 1937 - Poznan

Polish Merchants Association from America, in Front of Raczynski Library, Poznan

Polish Merchants Association from America, Poznan

Postcard, Imperial Castle and Poznan University

Advertising Card from Hartwig Kantorowicz
[Travel Diary Entry]

June 12 /
Breakfast in room / Sightseeing / Cathedral w Poznani / Groby Boles Miecz Chrobriego / Davidowskiego Bekoniaski / szynek / Ratusz. Museum / Wino - Tokaj dawane w / Ratuszu / Wilekopolski Dom Kupiecki / Zrzeszen. Kawa ciastka / Lody kregele / rdjazd do Katowic

June 12 /

Breakfast in room / Sightseeing / Poznan Cathedral / Tomb of Boleslaw and Mieszko the Brave / Dawidowski Bacon / ham / Town Hall Museum / Wine - Tokay given to the / town hall / Greater Poland House Merchant / Association Coffee, cakes / ice cream kregele / departure to Katowice

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)  After joining her tour group in Gdynia my Aunt Helen traveled to the city of Poznan. Poznan is the capital city and largest city of Weilkopolska or Greater Poland. Poznan is also a major financial center, second only to Warsaw. Between my aunt's diary and a type printed itinerary (in Polish) my aunt kept from her trip to Poland, I've been able to do a pretty decent job at figuring out what she visited while she was there. I will say, I've had an interesting time trying my hand at translating this particular diary entry from Polish to English all by myself. I don't speak or write Polish. I generally depend upon the kindness of a cousin to do my translating for me, but I thought I'd take a shot at it this time myself. 

For my translation I used a combination of Google Translate, Google, and a Polish/English dictionary to assist me. If my aunt's handwriting was always clear and legible I don't think I would have had much of a problem, but sometimes I just couldn't read her handwriting. I've also noticed variations in spelling throughout her diary. To assist with my translation I used a printed travel guide of Poland to put things into context. If you read Polish, feel free to comment if you see any glaring errors. 

From what I've been able to figure out, my aunt's sightseeing tour of Poznan included visits to the Raczynski Library, the Poznan Town Hall in the Old Town the Imperial Castle, Poznan University Hartwig Kantorowicz distillery, and the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. I think they also may have visited the Dawidowski bacon/ham manufacturer or shop. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any information on this establishment. They also stopped for coffee, cake, and ice cream with the Greater Union of Associations of Christian Merchants. 

The first photo at the top of this article was taken in front of the Raczynski Library. I found a clipping of a newspaper article in my aunt's things that includes a copy of the photo and identifies the tour group as the Polish Merchants Association from America. The text of the article reads: "Polish Merchants of America in Poznan - On Saturday 12th day of this month had been in Poznan tour of Polish Merchants Association in America. The group of 51 members, which is travelling now through Poland, visited the city and was welcomed by the Greater Union of Associations of Christian Merchants. On the picture members of the tour at the front of Raczynski Library" Great thanks to my cousin for providing the translation.

I believe the American group gave a bottle of Tokay, a type of Hungarian wine, to I'm guessing the Greater Union of Associations of Christian Merchants at the Poznan Town Hall. The group probably then toured the Old Market Square. Check out the embedded links for additional information about the sites visited. The link for the Old Market Square is particularly interesting. There is a map of the square and a listing/history for each of the buildings in the square.

I haven't been able to identify the exact location of the second photo, however I do know it was taken in Poznan given information on the back of the photo. The electric trolley in the background is interesting. The postcard below the photo offers a view of the Imperial Castle and Poznan University. The final image is an advertisement from the Hartwig Kantorowicz distillery. Hartwig Kantorowicz began producing Wyborowa vodka in 1823. Wyborowa is still produced and exported today. The Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul was built in 966, and contains the tombs of Mieszko I and Boleslaw the Brave, two of Poland's first rulers.

Next stop, Katowice...

Trip to Poland: June 11, 1937 - Gdynia

Polish Merchants Association
[Travel Diary Entry]

Gdynia June 11 / 

stopped for dinner at / Dom Zdrojowny then / sightseeing / Coffee at "Cafe Baltyk / 7.20 Train for Poznian (sic) / Stopped at Hotel / Bazar (sic) / Population 122,000 people

(Image in the Collection of  Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette) The photo above is a picture of the tour group my Aunt Helen Bulak traveled with for part of her visit to Poland. The group was made up of 51 members of the Polish Merchants Association from America. The group traveled to Gdynia, Poznan, Katowice, Crakow, Zakopane, Czestochowa, and Warsaw. After leaving the tour in Warsaw, my aunt stayed with my grandfather's Szerejko relatives in Warsaw.

From what I've read, Gdynia was a relatively small fishing village until 1918 and is one of the more recently developed cities in Poland. After World War I, Poland attained independence, but did not have a control of the port of what is now Gdansk (then Danzig). The Polish government decided to build a seaport at Gdynia. Construction started in 1921. Gydnia quickly grew to the size of a major seaport.

While in Gdynia my aunt traveled to the seaside town of Sopot and had dinner at Dom Zdrojowy (Spa House). A lovely seaside resort, Dom Zdrojowy was destroyed by fire after being sacked by the Red Army in 1945 during the Soviet occupation of Sopot. After dinner and sightseeing my aunt stopped at the Cafe Baltyk in Gdynia before taking the train to Poznan. The cafe was renamed Cafe Berlin during the German occupation of World War II.

Trip to Poland: June 10, 1937 - Copenhagen, Denmark

[Travel Diary Entry]

6-10-1937 /
Stopped at Copenhagen for / sightseeing trip. /
Kopenhagen / 900,000 people / 400,000 bicycles /
Denmark / 3 1/2 million people / 7 million pigs

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)  The M.S. Pilsudski stopped in Copenhagen, Denmark on 10 Jun 1937. The stop provided enough time to allow passengers the opportunity to take a sightseeing tour of the city, before continuing on to the ship's final destination of Gdynia, Poland. My Aunt Helen Bulak's travel diary entry for Copenhagen is pretty brief to say the least. I've been to Copenhagen and toured the city on a bicycle. It's a lovely city. There is certainly more to write about than just the Copenhagen and Danish human (and swine) population and the number of bicycles. My guess is that Aunt Helen was either rushed or too tired from the ocean voyage to write more. I will say, bicycles did and still do play a prominent role in the culture of the city.

I found a great video on Copenhagen in 1937. When I did a simple Google search using the phrase "Copenhagen 1937," what to my wondrous eyes did appear but a YouTube video called "Traveltalks - Copenhagen" from 1937. The video was part of a travel series produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While the narration and attitudes in the video are dated, the images are wonderful. The video is filmed in Technicolor, unusual for the time. As a result, the video has a warmth that I generally find lacking in black and white documentary film. While I don't have anymore details from my aunt's trip to Copenhagen, the video does give me a good feel for the sights and images of the day. I enjoyed my visit to wonderful Copenhagen, and I hope you do too!

Trip to Poland, 1937: June 10, 1937 - Lunch on the M.S. Pilsudski

Menu in the Collection of Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)  The first image is the cover of the luncheon menu offered aboard the M.S. Pilsudski on 10 June 1937. The back of the cover states that the photo is, "A fragment of the castle at Krasiczyn, since many centuries the property of the ducal family of Sapieha. A typical country residence of the erstwhile powerful and influential aristocracy of Poland." The menu for the luncheon looks delicious, well, except for the "sauerkraut juice." Menu items include: Cold filet of capon, beef saddle, consomme with noodles, soup Russian style, omelet with spinach, poached eggs Hollandaise, roast beef Anglaise, broiled lamb chops, and petit duc. The desserts sound intriguing--rissole with jam, pudding diplomate, and pineapple ice.

Trip to Poland: June 9, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

Danuta Gralicka, Front Left; Helen Bulak, Center, Alica Gralicka, Front Right
Kasimera Gralicka, Boleslawa Pomianowska

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 9. 1937
M.S. Pilsudski
Line Gdynia American

8th Day, Land, Farewell dinner

(Program in the Collection of Cynthia Shenette; Image and Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)  The program is for an "entertainment" on board the M.S. Pilsudski entitled, "Galaxy of Stars, graciously offered by the passengers of the M.S. Pilsudski." The Galaxy Stars took place, "At sea, June 9th 1937 - 9:30 P.M."

Trip to Poland: June 8, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

(News Release in the Collection of Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 8, 1937
M.S. Pilsudski
Line Gdynia America

7th Day Tues, 442 miles, 60 minutes ahead

In my Aunt Helen's collection of materials from her trip to Poland I found several news releases from the M.S. Pilsudski. Apparently radio news stories were compiled and distributed to passengers to keep them up to date on the news topics of the day. The "M.S. Pilsudski Radio News" was published in English and in Polish. The Polish editions of the paper seemed to focus on topics mostly relating to Poland. The English version of the news seemed to cover world news.

On Tuesday, June 8 1937 news topics included updates from New York, Washington, London, Hollywood , and Madrid. A major steel strike, I believe the "Little Steel Strike," was taking place in the United States, involving some 70,000 steel workers. Catastrophic volcano explosions killed 507 people and destroyed the town of Rabaul, New Guinea. A typhoid epidemic ensued, a result of polluted water in the area. In Hollywood starlet Jean Harlow died of uremic poisoning on Monday. Ernest Aldrich Simpson, the divorced husband of the Duchess of Windsor was suing a Mrs. Joan Sutharland for slander and the case would "...probably be heard in court on Thursday." There are updates of the civil war in Spain.  A story from Washington, D.C. reports Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau closed the books on "...two federal note issues, totalling eight hundred millions dollars, after the nations investors had oversubscribed the offering by 2,831,000,000 dollars." Some things don't change.

On June 10th, 1937 the "M.S. Pilsudski - Radio News" continues to report on the Spanish Civil War. In Moscow, "Commisar Voroshiloff signed a decree removing all famous generals, serving on Russia's western frontier. Marshal Tuchatchevski disappeared from active service and his present whereabouts is unknown." I had a feeling this story didn't end well. As my knowledge of Russian and Soviet history is pretty limited I decided to do a little research. According to Wikipedia, Mikhail Tukhachevskywas executed on 12 Jun 1937, a victim of Stalin's Great Purge. Also, foreshadowing events to come, is news from the Pope. In Italy "With tears falling and voice shaken by emotion, Pope addressing pilgrims from Bavaria expressed deep sorrow for condition of the catholic church in Germany." The article continues that the "United States Federal Council of churches, representing 23 national denominations passed a resolution, confirming the opinion, that the German administration is hostile to life, teaching and influence on christian church."

Trip to Poland: June 7, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

Helen Bulak
[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 7. 1937
M.S. Pilsudski
Line Gdynia America

6th Day, Monday, rough sailing until noon, 431 miles, 56 minutes ahead

(Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)

Trip to Poland: June 6, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 6. 1937
M.S. Pilsudski
Line Gdynia America

5th Day, [went to] Mass, rough sailing, 429 miles, 44 minutes ahead

(Brochure in the Collection of Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)

Trip to Poland: June 5, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 5. 1937
M.S. Pilsudski
Line Gdynia America

4th Day, rough sailing, 424 miles, 32 minutes ahead

(Brochure in the Collection of Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) Cynthia Shenette)  According to The Ships List the M.S. Pilsudski had 370 "tourist class" cabins and 400 "3rd class" cabins. My Aunt Helen traveled "tourist class." A brochure produced by the Gdynia-American Line proclaims, "Tourist Class is Top Class." The conveniences on board "...assure a high degree of graceful living: Large sun and promenade decks, veranda cafes, American bars, sumptuous social halls, modern ventilated dining room, children's playroom, tennis courts, swimming pool, gymnasium, short and long wave radio stations, music receiving and distributing stations, and an automobile garage." Interestingly automobiles were "...accepted, uncrated, for transportation as excess baggage, at moderate rates..."

Trip to Poland: June 4, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 4. 1937
M.S. Pilsudski 
Line Gdynia America

3rd Day 24 mins ahead sailed 486 miles

(Passenger List in the Collection of Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)  My aunt traveled on ship to Poland with with two friends from Worcester, MA: Mrs. Kasimiera (also known as Katherine) Gralicka (Gralicki) and her two young daughters, Miss Alicia Gralicka and Miss Danuta Gralicka; and Mrs. Bronislawa (also known as Halina) Pomianowska (Pomianowski).

While I don't have time right now, my hope is to post the names of all of the passengers on this voyage sometime later this year.  If you area related to someone who took this voyage and would like an image of their name in the passenger list feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to scan it for you.

Trip to Poland: June 3, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 3. 1937
Line Gdynia America

2nd Day 40 minutes ahead sailed 426 [miles]

(Greeting card in the collection of Cynthia Shenette; Text copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette) Well wishes from the friends at home. Names on the card are friends/family of my Aunt Helen who was very active in the Polish community in Worcester, MA. If you had relatives living in Worcester on Vernon Hill, with businesses in the Millbury St. business district, or active in St. Mary's church take a look at the list of people who signed the card. You might find someone there you know!

Signers are: Rose Olskey, Mrs. Matuszyk, Helen Bruinsma, Mary Mulic, Helen Miller, Anna Szarejko, Mrs. Lewandowska, Sophie Konopka, Christine, Rose Miller, Jane Zaleski, Mary Lemanski, Vicky Szarkiewicz, Jane Sac[?], Anna Kulesza, Vi Koniski, Mrs. Nabozna, Mrs. Stokosa, Mrs. Buynicka, Mrs. Wojsiak, Mrs. Kaminska, Charlotte Kaminska, Stella Lewanas, Blanche Cyborowski, Mary Dumas, Mrs.Jablonski, Zendzians (2), Mrs.Turecka, Mrs. Gembaka, Eva Cove, Mrs. Fedeli, Mrs.Jos Fedeli, Helene Birch, Regina, Helen Bulak, Hilda Bulak, Mrs. Bulak, Mrs. Wiejniak

Trip to Poland: June 2, 1937 - Aboard the M.S. Pilsudski

M.S. Pilsudski in New York

[Travel Diary Entry]

Date June 2. 1937
M.S. Pilsudski 
Line Gdynia America 

1st Day 200 miles

(Image Credit Wikipedia, Public Domain; Text Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette)  On 2 Jun 1937 my Aunt Helen Bulak boarded the M.S. Pilsudski, bound for Gdynia, Poland with a stop in Copenhagen, Denmark. The ship stopped in Copenhagen on 10 Jun 1937 and arrived in Gdynia on 11 Jun 1937. According to a brochure I have from the Gdynia-America Line, the ship sailed at 12:05 a.m. and left from the 6th St. Pier, in Hoboken, New Jersey. My aunt traveled "tourist class." A round trip tourist class ticket cost $274.00 during the "summer season" of 1937.

Trip to Poland: June-September 1937

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2017 Cynthia Shenette) I was in the process of closing out my mother's house in 2004 when I found a box of things from my Aunt Helen's trip to Poland in 1937. My Aunt Helen Bulak (1894-1985) was my grandmother's sister and only sibling. Auntie Helen was a fairly well-to-do business woman with a clothing shop--or as it started out in 1919, a "millinery and dry-goods" business--on Millbury St. in Worcester, MA. 

Auntie was by no means rich, but definitely well-to-do. In the 1930s when most people were struggling to make ends meet, my aunt was off on a four month-long trip to Poland. I never knew much about her trip other than she went there and brought back some souvenirs of her trip--a Polish doll, a carved wooden deer, and the like. To my surprise, in the box, I found my aunt's passport, photos, multiple menus from the dining room aboard her ship, postcards, a sailing program with information about the ship and it's passengers, a program from a play she saw in Warsaw, and most importantly her travel diary. 

The travel diary doesn't look like much. It's worn black leather with faded gold lettering. There's a now torn red ribbon book mark and a little gold pencil for writing notes. The writing in the diary varies from English, to Polish depending on the entry and the day, and probably Aunt Helen's mood. The entries at the beginning of the diary are pretty ordinary, kind of what you'd expect from a travel diary. They list dates, hotels, and sights visited. All pretty routine. Later in the diary, when she visits my grandfather Adolf Szerejko's family in Warsaw, the entries become more personal and offer details about the sights seen and my grandfather's family in Warsaw. Aunt Helen stayed with my grandfather's brother, Feliks Szerejko, and his family for several weeks while she was in Warsaw. She also visited other members of the family while she was there.

 Before I read my aunt's travel diary I knew nothing about our family in Poland, other than family still lived there. I didn't know who, and I didn't know where. When I was a kid I remember my grandmother would periodically send letters, money, and packages to Poland. In return she would get a letter or an Easter card or Christmas card with oplatki, the thin unconsecrated wafers similar to communion wafers, to be shared during a holiday meal. Someone sent my grandmother a beautiful doll, dressed in Polish costume, to give to me. Who were these people? 

When my grandmother died all knowledge of the family back in Poland died with her. The information contained in the diary opened up a whole new world to me. My aunt's travel diary provides a glimpse of our family's life in Poland and in Warsaw in 1937. From it, I've been able to put together pieces of the family puzzle. 

My aunt visited Poland in June, July, August, and September of 1937. Two years later Poland and Warsaw would be bombed, war would begin, and life for the family in Poland would never be the same. Over the next four months I hope to post excepts from Aunt Helen's diary, 80 years to the day, chronicling her trip, using what I know about the family and her trip on the eve of World War II.  

I started this project several years ago, but got too bogged down in research and never finished posting the diary excerpts.  I now work full-time and do the mom thing for my teenage son, which means life is busier than ever.  I really want to do this, but in order to make the project manageable my goal is to post diary excerpts and photographs, and if I have time to post additional research I will.  I also plan to post re-posts from the original go-around in 2010.  In order to expedite things, I am going to discontinue listing "Other Posts You Might Like" at the bottom of my posts, at least for the near future.