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Study Abroad in Kraków

By Arian Burnett-Farrands

My grandfather was an inspiring man. His mother died saving him from drowning when he was very young, so he was raised by his extended family. He served in the military, and later became a devoted teacher. He was an avid and talented oil painter, replicating beautiful landscapes and scenery. Although my grandpa passed away a little over two years ago, his strong personality and distinctive quirks will ever be remembered. He left behind an extensive collection of oil paintings, many signed, “Polack.”

I never thought much about this unusual signature, and was completely unaware that “Polack” is used as an offensive term to describe someone of Polish descent. (Polak is the Polish word for a Polish person.) This is because both my grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side are immensely proud of their Polish heritage. My great-grandparents immigrated from Poland and settled in Polish communities in Pennsylvania. Although they spoke mainly Polish, my grandparents lost most of their ability to speak the language when they moved away, but they maintained their Polish traditions. We break off a piece of opłatek every year on Christmas Eve as we bless each other with health and happiness, and express our love. I always enjoy my grandmother’s wonderful Polish cooking, including her kiełbasa, gołąbki, and homemade pierogi. Their bookshelves contain Polish novels and prayer books, and the occasional Polish swearword can be heard around the house.

My grandparents have always radiated a strong sense of pride for their Polish descent, and I absorbed this pride without knowing much about Polish culture or history. I enrolled in Polish language courses in an attempt to become better connected with my ancestral roots. While I am improving my Polish speaking and reading ability, I look forward to seeing my proficiency improve through the opportunity to learn Polish while being immersed in its culture. I would be honored to be part of the study abroad program, which would allow me to become comfortable with the language, and discover more about my past. I know my grandfather would be immensely proud to know I am learning about my heritage through an incredibly unique experience.

Arian is a sophomore at UR, majoring in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. She is a recipient of a Skalny scholarship for the summer study-on-location program in Kraków.