PK and the Gang

Bringing Eastern Europe to Eastern North Carolina

Archive for the category “Polish Culture”

Today in Poland

Polish Eagle CloseupToday Americans celebrate Veterans Day. We remember and pay respect to those who dedicate their lives to protect our freedoms. In other countries, such as the UK and France, will hold Armistice Day celebrations. Armistice Day celebrates the end of World War I (and our Veterans Day has the same roots) remembering those who participated in the Great War and paid the ultimate price. Poland also has a celebration today. A major celebration. November 11th is Independence Day.

Polish Independence Day also gets its start from World War I. While Poles remember their countrymen who died during the Great War, the end of the War was a time of great celebration because, after over 120 years of not existing on the map, the end of the war brought back the Polish state. Poland, once previously a great European power, had been divided up between Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia. Poles relished the rebirth of their country and celebrated with relish. Of course, they only had a few years to celebrate before Hitler invaded and Poland disappeared again. After the war, Poland became part of the USSR and the November 11th Independence Day was replaced with a day marking the beginning of Communist rule. Independence Day returned when the Third Polish Republic was founded in 1989 and have continued ever since.

Today, Poles celebrate with a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, parades and the Independence Run – a massive race throughout Warsaw. The city of Poznan also celebrates the Feast of Saint Martin, the towns patron saint. This involves a parade where a man dressed as a Roman soldier who receives the key to the city. The Roman soldier represents St. Martin who was a soldier before becoming a Christian (the early church refused to allow soldiers as members) and eventually being chosen as the bishop of Tours. Also popular in Poznan is a croissant-like pastry representing the horseshoe that features in one of St. Martin’s legends.

In Warsaw, though, Independence Day often does not end happily. As the the afternoon turns into the evening, the last several years have seen more and more demonstrations from extreme right-wing groups. Poles are extremely proud of their Polish-ness and, in recent years, these groups have gone out of their way to press their ideas. These groups have had clashes with police or each other that have grown in their intensity over the last few years. Last year there were 41 criminal cases from these clashes and many people were sent to the hospital. Muslim immigrants have been spat on or attacked and last year and this year, IBM told its Polish employees that those who felt safer working from home should do so. The acceptance of Syrian refugees is not a popular topic in Poland and these feelings could serve to fan the flames. The American Embassy even put out a notice to Americans of places and times that should be avoided to keep away from the trouble. Warsaw is where all international adoptions are finalized in Poland so please keep the families there in your thoughts as much as the minorities who have come to approach what should be a day of freedom with trepidation.

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You Can Go Home Again…With Some Delays

Last night/early this morning, Becky and I got back from Connecticut. It was the first time we had seen Becky’s parents in about a year, the first time Becky had been home in two years and it had been a while longer for me. It was nice to visit with friends and family and to relax after some craziness. The few days prior to leaving were rather insane.

Thursday morning, the 20th, Becky and I had an appointment with USCIS for our biometrics, which is just a fancy word for fingerprints and a photo. We drove up to Raleigh the day before. After staying in a motel that can best be described as “slightly murder-y,” we got to the building for our 8am appointment. We were ushered to the room where the citizenship ceremonies were held with lots of other people. A little after 8, a lady came in the room and asked if anyone had an appointment for 8am. Becky and I stood up, along with around thirty other people. We found ourselves in the midst of a cattle call. A bit of paperwork, another set of fingerprints and a photo reminiscent of a mug shot later, and Becky and I were done. This information would be paired with the other information sent to USCIS to see if they would approve us to bring a child into the US.The next evening, we were supposed to fly out to Connecticut.

They're called a murder of crows for a reason.

We don’t know what we did, but the birds were angry.

The plane we were supposed to fly out on was late originally due to a crew member not getting to the plane on time. It would have made making the connection tight but doable. Then the plane hit a bird while landing and caused maintenance issues. We were going to miss the connecting flight and, by extension, miss getting to Connecticut and a cook-out with Becky’s high school friends. Some tears and a little light manipulation later, we were scheduled for an early morning flight out the next day and bump to first class on the flight out of Charlotte. Both of those flights were delayed as well, one for birds who decided to camp on the runway and the other because the plane was missing 19 of those emergency cards that tell you what should do in the unlikely event of the plane experiencing troubles. Still, in the end, we got to Connecticut and a pleasant surprise was waiting for us in the airport.

There in the baggage claim were a crowd of people with signs saying “Welcome Home James.” Our pre-adoptive parent instincts kicked in and Becky headed over to them and asked a woman if they were waiting on someone coming home from an adoption. They were – a little boy from Ethiopia was about to meet up again with his family and a massive amount of cousins and friends, many of whom were adopted as well. We, and Becky’s parents, had the honor of watching James get back together with his family and we all about did the ugly cry. It was a nice picture of what we will experience in the future and while I’m thankful we got to see that, I could have done without the drama that got us there. I’m still not sure what we did to anger the birds.

On our return home last night, there was envelope from the Office of Homeland Security. Inside the plain envelope was a single piece of paper stating that we had been approved by USCIS to bring a child into the country. The piece of paperwork we have been waiting for is here! Now we just have to send it and a thick stack of papers to get apostilled in Raleigh. We are planning on tackling that Monday and when they come back, our dossier is done! We can then send it to Poland and we’re officially waiting.

Along with the waiting, we will be filling out grant applications, Becky is planning on a massive amount of nesting and, in all likelihood, more fundraising. Several folks have asked if we had a Gofundme page. I recently put one up, which shows the amount needed for the money we have to send over before each of the trips and a bit more for extra expenses like the apartment we’ll have while we’re in Poland. We’ve been so blessed with your love and support both spiritually and financially. If you wouldn’t mind, please, feel free to share our story as well our blog and the Gofundme page. You can get to that page by clicking the button at the top of the blog or here. There’s a button there that you can easily share to Facebook with.

On the Polish front, today is the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland which precipitated World War II. Also, Becky and I have been asked about what PK’s name is going to be. Since PK is likely going to be at least two and their name will be the only thing they have in the world, we want to keep whatever name they come with. There’s a great website dedicated to strengthening Polish cultural impact through the world. They have lots of great pages dedicated introducing Poland to the world at large and have recently done a page on Polish names. If you want to know more about Polish naming traditions and the baby names that were recently popular, click here. Who knows? Maybe PK’s name is on the list. We’re excited to find out!

The Dog, Dyngus Day, and Staring at Phones

It's true. My wife is hot and she is an amazing Vanna White.

You might have already seen it on Facebook, but here’s Becky mailing off the application!

The past few weeks have a bit of a blur, if I’m to be quite honest. Between preparing for holidays and having extra events at work, life would have been hopping anyway but when you add on the fact that we’ve actually mailed in the application to the agency we’ve had extra homework. Becky and I have had to make copies of pertinent documents, fill our paperwork, write up our spiritual journeys, get doctor’s notes, and get everything notarized (thanks to our dear friend, Kathy) and we managed to get it all mailed off. Thanks to everyone for the prayers and good thoughts and for those who are wondering we still haven’t heard anything. With our luck, we managed to get everything mailed off during Holy Week and it arrived on Maundy Thursday, just a bit before the end of business. I suspect, since this is a Christian agency, they were closed on Good Friday, obviously shut down for the weekend, and are probably shut down for Easter Monday. Which means the clock doesn’t start until tomorrow. We were told that typically it’s a two-day turnaround (likely the shortest wait we’ll have on this journey) but, since we have to have a doctor’s note and it may have to be sent to Poland, it could take about a week. Of course, this coming Sunday is the canonization of Pope John Paul II, so I understand Poland is a little crazy right now getting ready to celebrate their favorite son. So when will we hear? I don’t know but rest assured I’ll let you know. If they want to play with us, and they have been encouraging that there’s no real reason they shouldn’t, then we sign the contract and we’re officially working with them. Then comes more paper work, more notarizations, more waiting…par for the course as far as I understand.

Nothing suspicious at all going on. Boys getting ready for a water attack on Smigus Dyngus in Sanok, Poland.

Nothing suspicious at all going on. Boys getting ready for a water attack on Smigus Dyngus in Sanok, Poland.

It’s Easter Monday or, in Poland, Śmigus Dyngus (pronounced SHMEE-gus DIN-gus) . I’ve enjoyed learning more about Polish culture recently and Easter (and the surrounding days) is something they take seriously. Śmigus Dyngus has a long tradition in Poland. Boys traditionally tossed water on girls who they thought were attractive and in recent years girls have joined in soaking the guys. Traditionally, there were poems to be said, ransoms of decorated eggs to be received, and, in some regions, a drunk rooster pulled through town on a cart. Now, it seems to be more of a feeling of “Don’t leave the house unless you have to – the neighbor’s kids are waiting outside the door with Supersoakers.” Proof that while traditions may change the poignant beauty of them does not. In all honesty, the Polish traditions, rituals and pageantry that are part of Easter weekend are amazing and I look forward to including more of them into our family celebrations (this year included kielbasa and a lamb (in butter form) on the table for Easter lunch).

Today is also the anniversary of Rex joining the family! Well, technically it was the 9th but I can be horrible with dates. Rex was adopted on Easter Monday two years ago and so in my head Easter Monday is Rex’s Gotcha Day no matter what year it is. To celebrate, we bought him some Beggin’ Strips (we spare no expense). It’s weird to think that it’s been so short a time. Hopefully, the time till PK is here will seem just as fast.

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