The ham in your Easter bowl rests there like at the top of a concave mountain, thankful before being washed away with a flood of żurek and devoured. This is national absolution, the further east you go the more sour it is. Today the soup tastes like tilling a warm field, and the last piece of blessed bread gives itself to the guest.
Every village between here and Białystok contributes to thousands of składaks leaned outside the churches. Those bicycles locked up? Inside we don’t shake hands peace, we nod peace. The chandelier turns slowly over the grandmothers’ kerchiefed heads, our knees get dusty from all the kneeling.
We sweat our way out of that native realm and tear down ulica Solidarności. Nobody remembers the street’s former name but they do remember how, when the names were changed, Sędziszów rejoiced with an ice cream shop that stayed open late. Blueberry’s still the most popular flavor.
We pass a man reddened with bimber and wild hair stumbling down the road on our way to the cemetery. The gravestone photographs weather the hill’s wind and we read the given names quietly in old Polish. Mieczysław, Kazimiera, Jadwiga, Zbigniew, Mieczysława, they give you flowers regularly and sweep the wheat off your graves. That one over there, she’s from down the road. Look how her kids run around and eat chips while she sits and stares.
Before lunch a Sunday walk in the woods, not quite mushroom-gathering season yet, though. We pass piles of Tatra mocny beer cans and a man pushing a pink bicycle up the path. He meets my eyes and ignores my dzien dobry. We return through the cemetery to hunch over our bowls of chicken soup. Ring of Fire plays on the radio. Five hours behind an ocean apart, my family is just waking to my call.
Sędziszów Małopolski: a town in the east of Poland, between Dębica and Rzeszów, 2.5 hours by train from Kraków
żurek: fermented rye flour soup, a traditional Easter breakfast dish in some regions of Poland
składak: a small folding bicycle for adults (see photo below)
bimber: homemade vodka
Tatra mocny: a popular ‘strong’ Polish beer, named for a range of the Carpathian mountains
dzien dobry: ‘good morning’
Text and pictures by Adam Dupaski