WHO: Susan Kryczka, 52, of West Roxbury, and Roxolana Sawchuk, 41, of Boston
WHERE: Krakow, Poland
WHEN: 10 days in May
WHY: To meet Kryczka's family
LOST AND FOUND: "My parents immigrated to the United States in 1949 after spending 1945 to '49 in a displaced persons camp in Germany," said Kryczka (pronounced KRITS-ka). Most of her father's family remained in Poland. They lost touch more than 30 years ago, she said, and her parents have since passed away. "A year ago, my nephew in Chicago, while cruising the Internet, found a website in Polish (http://zarowianie.republika.pl/framset.html) explaining the history of the village of Zarowka," near Krakow, where her father is from. "On that site was a picture of my father in his Polish Army uniform, a picture I believed I had the only copy of. It was a miracle."
MAKING CONTACT: "I was speechless, blown away. I printed it all out and starting translating it," recalled Kryczka, who grew up in Chicago speaking Polish at home. "There was an e-mail address, and I worked on my little paragraph, saying, 'I'm the daughter of Frank. I saw this online. Who are you?' " It turned out the webmaster, Mirek Wnuk, was her second cousin.
PERSON TO PERSON: After a year of corresponding, Kryczka decided to visit. She brought her friend Sawchuk for moral support. "We rented an apartment. I made all the arrangements and then announced I was coming. I didn't want them to feel obligated, plus I didn't know what they'd be like," Kryczka said. "I was so nervous." Wnuk brought his mother to the airport. "The first thing she does is hand me this picture of my father I'd never seen before."
VISITING THE VILLAGE: Family members took her to Zarowka, where her father had grown up, about three hours from Krakow. Relatives still living there on a farm hosted them. "In Poland, everything is around the 20-course meal. The guys all went out to watch the soccer game . . . . The women, we went to the cemetery," where her father's parents areburied. "When we came back, they'd put out another meal."
PLAYING TOURIST: "Krakow is just gorgeous. It sustained very little damage in the war," she said. "There's an unbelievable castle. And of course we wanted to go shopping." They also visited the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine. The apartment Kryczka rented in Krakow turned out to be near other cousins, with whom she spent a lot of time. She used Internet cafes to send dispatches to her siblings.
FAMILY TIES: "At one point, I was sitting there and my 78-year-old cousin was talking about my father, that he was really smart and how he learned to make candy. I never saw my father eat one sweet in his life," she said. "Mirek is sitting there writing it all down because he wants to add it to the Web page. . . . And I'm looking at all of them and thinking I'm the luckiest person in the world."