When I was in Poland in October 2000, I visited the Catholic Cemetery there. I thought I might look for the surnames of my relatives there, but I had heard that most graves in Poland are rented, not purchased, so I didn’t expect to find the graves of any of my ancestors. Nonetheless, my traveling companions and I searched the entire cemetery for relevant surnames.
While we were searching, there were several elderly Polish women who were in the cemetery, sweeping fallen leaves off the graves. These women were very curious about us and kept watching us as we walked up and down the rows of graves. Finally, one of the women came up to us and asked us whose grave we were trying to find, and we told her that we were looking for the graves of the Dańkos. The woman’s first reaction was to ask “The Dańkos from Nienadowa?”. And, of course, she was correct.
I showed this woman a list of other surnames for which I was searching. She saw one of these names – Sawa – and she said the name was probably Sowa, not Sawa. Later, I found out she was, once again, correct.
If you look at the crucifix on the grave of Katarzyna and Stanisław Dańko, you’ll notice that the lower part, the body, is missing. If you further look at the crucifix on the grave on Jan Dańko, you’ll notice that the lower part does not seem to be in proportion to the upper part – each arm is as long as the entire body. Finally, if you compare the two crucifixes, you’ll notice that it looks like the lower part of the crucifix from Katarzyna and Stanisław’s grave was placed on the grave of Jan. I wonder what was going on here?
Also notice that most of the graves appear to be tombs built above ground. I wonder if this is because these graves were built on top of other graves, after the grave rental expired on the older graves.
For more information on cemeteries in Poland and the significance of All Saint’s Day in Poland, visit Jasia’s blog entry on Grave Tending: A National Holiday. When you visit Jasia’s blog, be sure to click on the links Old Cemetery in Tarnow and Old Cemetery in Tarnow at night for some wonderful Polish cemetery photos. When you read Jasia’s blog entry, you’ll understand why the women were sweeping the leaves off the graves in Dubiecko, and you’ll understand the significance of the candles you can see in the photos I’ve posted here.