Warszawa’s crimson and white, Narodowy Stadium—National Stadium—flashed past the window as I was overcome by a shallow slumber. When I awoke, we were nearing the Polish periphery. Our intercity bus hobbled across the worn, narrow country roads. Content storks nestled on the rooftops with their spindly, graceful legs. It was a sight too unconventional to forget. Trees consumed the horizon, as we once again entered the forest. I glanced at my grandmother, resting in the adjacent seat. Carefully, she held a pale-pink, marble urn. Gingerly, she embraced it, shielding its precious contents from the rivets of the all-so familiar road.
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It was absolutely exotic to me; this new environment. The near absence of highways and infrastructure other than in major metropolises was astounding. Everything was lush and vibrant, unlike the dehydrated vegetation of my Texas home. Approximately 7 hours northwest of the urban giant, Warszawa, we arrived in the small city of Augustów and boarded an even smaller vehicle to our destination, Suwa?ki. From there, it was a short distance and a minute route through the endless greenery.
Sejny, our small village of 6000, is where children freely roamed the streets and doors remain unlocked. A pristine white church and an ancient synagogue coexist on a multicolored street. A Christmas colored building deteriorates somewhere in between. The house, once a designated Nazi headquarters, was and remains, a family owned store. We walked several blocks over to the Marycha, a serpentine creek that winds through my woods and beyond to Lithuania. Multiple acres of pasture and sparse housed dot the landscape. I gazed at a thicket to my right. The slender trees loom boldly over the mundane farms. I gaze the trees in admiration.
“I planted them by hand.” My grandmother beamed.
I realized quickly, that I was different; of a different color, a different upbringing. Surprisingly, I felt so at peace there in that foreign place, whose language I knew by heart. I thought back to the urn that we had journeyed here to bury. It held countless joyous memories, manifested in the loose grey ashes of my great grandmother. She had finally returned to the earth she had for years tended. Just as I had finally arrived to explore the land of my humble origins.
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