Today in my Dlaczego Kochamy Polskę (Why Do We Love Poland?) series I feature Anna Sycz who writes a cultural blog called “ I LOVE PIEROGIes” where you can find not only recipes but also a lot of meaningful tips on Poland and Seattle, WA where she now lives. She decided to call her blog “I love pierogies” because she constantly hears this sentence whenever somebody learns she’s Polish.
And come on: we all love pierogi, right?!
Read this article below and learn more about Anna’s incredible insight on places any other tourist wouldn’t have thought existed, note her tips on events and definitely like and follow her blog on Facebook!
Where are you from and where in Poland have you lived? What is your favourite Polish province?
I come from Subcarpathian Voivodeship (Pol: Podkarpacie), in south-eastern Poland. Therefore, most people immediately assume I’m from the wild forests of Bieszczady. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though I appreciated the surrounding sights, I knew I won’t be living there for good. So, I became a rolling stone quite early…
I moved to Jarosław for high school and I’m still greatly sentimental about this city. Jarosław takes great pride in the buildings on the Main Square, its City Hall and the ornamented townhouses.
I’ve also lived in the charming and famous for its glass Krosno, and later relocated to Kraków where I stayed a bit longer. I always wanted to live in Kraków and it was truly amazing to be able to walk the historic streets of this city. Then I relocated to Wrocław and I can boldly say I loved living in Wrocław, I “WrocLOVEd” but also if it wasn’t for love I probably wouldn’t have moved to Warszawa. In Wrocław I fell in love with a guy (now my husband) and we’ve both moved to the capital.
There is a well-known animosity between people from Kraków and those from Warsaw, and a few years back I could not imagine myself living in Warsaw!
But I guess everything changes with time and perspective. I slowly started to appreciate Warszawa and at the end really liked living there.
When it comes to my favourite province I’d say it’s still the Subcarpathian Voivodeship the region where I was born and grew up. Visiting it is always sentimental, and I believe people should more often hear about its beauties.
What is your favourite village in Poland and why?
I would definitely recommend you visiting GORAJEC, a small (23 inhabitants) village in south-eastern Poland approximately 86 km (53 mi) east of Rzeszów.
You see, when I was growing up in the 90’s there wasn’t much going on in the region but for quite some time now I observe and got absolutely fascinated by Marina and Marcin who managed to establish something absolutely amazing there!
Borderline Culture Festival FOLKOWISKO is a unique annual interdisciplinary 3-days-event that presents multicultural sources of our national culture.
Each year they are not only providing great fun but also touching important social issues. People who come to the event arrive from all over the world and everybody is welcomed! Apart from this event, the couple runs a all-year-round B&B CHUTOR GORAJEC where you can eat delicious regional food made from local produce and rest in the unique rural atmosphere.
Gotrajec is also located in urban-rural gmina (administrative district) Cieszanów that has been quite open and progressive as for Polish standards. That’s for instance where Cieszanów Rock Festival is being organized since 2009 and where thousands of people come to listen to music under the open sky.
What is your favourite city in Poland and why?
As I mentioned: for a long time I thought it was Kraków. I did pretty well with its tourists and pigeons… and the cheap shots of flavoured vodka in the shabby pubs of Kazimierz.
But then I was enchanted by Wrocław and that’s definitely my favourite Polish city until this day.
Wrocław has an amazing vibe and I was lucky I lived there when it was the European Capital of Culture.
You can visit it all year round and you will always find something for yourself. In winter Wrocław has a mind- blowing Christmas fair; in Summer you are just swept away by the fairness of its building… and people.
I also adore Gdańsk because it’s magical, has rich political and cultural history and I still feel I underexplored it. Luckily, nowadays I’m drawn to Gdańsk not just by my curiosity but also thanks to my husband’s family.
What is your favourite town in Poland and why?
I feel I should do justice to Krosno because it has its hidden charms and the surroundings of the town are also worth exploring. I remember arriving in Krosno for the first time and thinking it’s already in the mountains :)! It’s charming, quiet and what not many people realize, has a great wine-related history. Apart from the big glass factory, the town is also known for speedway and hot air balloon competition.
While enjoying your stay in Krosno, you can jump into one of the minibuses that will take you to the neighbouring baths: Rymanów Zdrój and Iwonicz Zdrój. While in Rymanów you should definitely visit Jaś Wędrowniczek – restaurant serving amazing Polish food!
Additionally, Krosno’s localization allows you to easily get to Sanok, and the associated with podkarpacie Bieszczady Mountains. The town is also a great starting point for Slovakia, Czechia and Hungary.
Why do you love Poland?
From the big picture perspective I would say two things:
First: that’s where I was born so it definitely gave me the nationality.
Living in Seattle, and in the U.S. in general, has shown me how important the sense of identity is to people. And I don’t only mean Poles – I mean people who for some reason live in the U.S. now. Let it be for their own choices or for the choices their ancestors made, every American you ask has great grandparents that arrived here from a different land. Some of them cherish their roots, others don’t really pay attention to their heritage but pretty much everybody knows what kind of blood mixture they are.
I’m trying to be a levelled person in all aspects of my life. Hence, I’m not throwing my nationality into people’s faces. You probably won’t see me wearing “Polska” t-shirt or hanging Polish flag in front of our house – but I wouldn’t be ashamed of doing it either.
If somebody spots my accent or simply asks me where I’m from, seeing the surname they cannot pronounce, I’m gladly giving them the answer.
I remember just this one time when a cashier in 7-eleven was a bit hard-of-hearing and asked me where I’m from. Even though he asked me twice he still thought that I was saying Portland so I acquiesce to his version.
Second: Poland taught me this beautiful Polish language that I really appreciate and cherish e.g. by using all the diacritical marks even now when I live in Seattle. Poles at home, as well as those living abroad, often give up on the “struggle” of the 9 additional letters “ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż” and to me, somebody whose 1st language is Polish, not using these is just laziness.
I follow and try to stay up to date with the publications by prof. Jerzy Bralczyk and prof. Jan Miodek. And boy do I consider reading their comments on the modern use of Polish a piece of entertainment! At the same time, I’m still very often looking things up in the Dictionary of Polish Language because “ I know that I know nothing.”
When did you first travel abroad?
I did not travel abroad as a kid and barely had any friends who did. So shortly after my A- level exams, I set off to Ireland where I lived and worked for almost 2 years. I was very young and recklessly worked two shifts: afternoons as a shop assistant in a picture framing shop and evenings as a waitress in a local restaurant. Later on, I also took an evening English course at University College of Dublin to improve my English. I assumed the fact of living in the English-speaking country is a great chance to perfecting the language, and that’s how my adventure with language began.
What is your favourite Polish drink and why?
I would say it’d be Pigwówka and Kukułkówka just simply because these are the two unusual sweet, flavoured vodkas that are best at Polish Harvest Festivals (Pol: dożynki). The first vodka is made of quince the second is made of and tastes like the legendary candy Kukółki.
Well, you gotta know that dożynki, especially these regional once, is quite a big event in the rural areas of Poland and if you haven’t been on any – you missed a lot!
I remember this one time when I was visiting my parents in August and they happened to hang out at the County Harvest Festival (Pol: Dożynki powiatowe) in Lubaczów region. Gosh! It was a feast!
The tradition of Village Women’s Clubs is still cultivated there so you would see food booths with homemade cakes, pierogi, Polish sausage, smoked cold cuts and all the flavoured vodkas you could imagine! Clearly, all these homemade goody-goods were as cheap as chips!
What is your favourite Polish food and why?
I love pierogi! Isn’t that just obvious! Most Americans call the meal PIEROGIES so I adopted the name of my blog: Ilovepierogies.com since I saw no point in correcting people all the time 🙂
Apart from that, all dough-made and potato-based Polish foods are good; I love pyzy, kartacze, and sweet knedle with a juicy prune inside. I also grew up in a house where everybody was big on homemade elevated Polish cakes like sernik and makowiec so I couldn’t imagine my life without them! Even now living in Seattle, WA, I make them for various occasions.
What is important about living in Seattle and maintaining your Polish roots?
I guess what’s most important to me is contact with the Polish language so that I keep my Polish vocabulary rich. However, I wouldn’t say that talking to other Poles who live abroad helps. People tend not to pay that much attention to the language purity and are more acceptant when it comes to you using some English borrowings.
Actually, I faced the same problem when I was doing my BA in English Philology – lots of foreign language linguists tend to slowly push back their native languages due to the constant exposure to the language they study in depth. Therefore, I read a lot in Polish and listen to podcasts in English. That helps in keeping the dictionaries in good shape.
I love cooking Polish food at home and would definitely cook something Polish for my friends here. Nevertheless, I am a vegetarian and you would not see me serving traditional Polish sausage or fat dripping beer-marinated Golonka. Being a vegetarian, however, doesn’t stop me from making bigos or any other Polish dishes that would normally contain meat. You just need to be creative and open for alterations of recipes.
Staying up to date with Polish culture and news is also a big part of maintaining my Polish roots. I’m a big fan and supporter of Legalna Kultura that offers a vast range of legal sources you can use to stay in touch with the Polish film, music etc.
What is your favourite random fact about Poland?
Poland’s Białowieża Primeval Forest is home to 800k European bison, Europe’s heaviest animal!
Dlaczego kochamy Polskę: I love pierogies
Thank you and Dziękuję bardzo to Anna for being the latest in my series of Those Who Love Poland! If you love Poland and run a blog or are a travel writer, please get in touch, you can be featured, either e-mail jonny (at) northernirishmaninpoland (dot) com or head to my contacts or work page and get connected! You can also subscribe to Northern Irishman in Poland by filling in the form below! Safe travels!