A Reflection on My Heritage and Time in Poland

Dec 20, 2017 11:30:00 AM / by Irene Kanthan


Thaddeus is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A BFA major at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, he is studying abroad in London this semester.

In this week's post, Thaddeus leaves London for Poland to visit and learn more about his heritage and the rich history in this European country.


For the final full weekend of my time at CAPA, I decided to take a trip to Poland since I come from Polish heritage! It is the first time that someone with my namesake has traveled back to the country since my great-great-grandfather in the mid-1950's. My grandfather was originally from Krakow, however, I also took the time to visit Warsaw and Gdansk.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Christmas Market in Krakow Old Town in Poland.jpgChristmas market in Krakow, Poland.

In Krakow, the city feels like a small town mixed with modern architecture centered around the Old Town section which was established around the 13th century - as with most Old Town boroughs through Poland.

I feel like the experience of old town architecture is something that really attracts me as a traveler. I feel as though I can still feel the history of ancient European culture. Krakow has preserved this architecture well and is a central reason, I find, to take pride in the history of your heritages. It is something so rare to see in the United States in a way that is respected for enhancing a relationship between a city and its people.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Gate at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.jpgAt the gate of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

I also took the opportunity to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp. It's difficult for me to put into words how humbling it is to experience these places of terror because it helps me remember my privilege living in a more progressive era. While right now the world may seem crazy to us in the United States, or in similar first-world countries, we at least can look at this moment in history as one of the worst times in understanding human nature.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - The Block Houses in Auschwitz.jpgThe block houses in Auschwitz.

I realized how incredible human sacrifice for the better or worse, creates an understanding between like-minded people in a deeply instinctual way.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Vibrant Colors in a Lane in Old Town Warsaw, Poland.jpgVibrant colors in a lane in Old Town Warsaw.

I then traveled to the city of Warsaw, with a bit of an unsuspected realization that the city has extremely modern architecture, similar to that of Chicago and even my home university in Minneapolis!

I again made sure to visit the small borough of the Old Town in Warsaw to see what the similarities may be. Unsurprisingly since it is the capital city, it has a much more fast-paced modern feel in the culture. However, the Old Town section, as small has it has become was inherently taller and more vibrant. The shades of pink, light green, and deep orange felt like a spectacle. It probably helped because of the Christmas Markets going on in the square.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - The Palace of Culture and Science in downtown Warsaw, Poland.jpgThe Palace of Culture and Science in downtown Warsaw.

I was sure to take a climb up to the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science.

By climb, I mean took the elevator.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Old Town section of Warsaw, Poland.jpg

I got to see a better aerial view of the different districts of the city. It's very interesting to experience the progressive modernization of cities so far away from your home country. It's a very interesting phenomenon that the world is undergoing to find similar tastes in how a city progresses and how the culture changes with it.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - The Town of Gdansk on the River in Poland.jpg

Finally, I took a rather relaxing trip to Gdansk. I was first intrigued here about how the used the old architecture of the Old Town borough and, modernized the homes and businesses within it. This one of the most authentic ways to experience Poland, at least for a certain demographic of the country. Since it lies on the Martwa river leading to the Baltic Sea, the Old Town is built taller and thinner to fit within the path of the river.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - A Resturaunt with my root namesake in Gdansk, Poland.jpgA restaurant with my root namesake in Gdansk, Poland.

Gdanks was a very peaceful town that allowed me to do a lot of reflecting and mentally preparing for my return to the United States. Traveling to a country of my heritage helped me realize to respect more of the culture and community that I come from back in the United States.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Colored Lights in Gdansk by night in Poland.jpgGdansk by night.

When you are acclimated to a way of life, you represent the culture that is born out of the geographical location and human interaction based on the architecture of the environment in which you were raised. That sounds like an odd complicated statement, yet it helped me put my differences in perspective with contrasting cultures.

Thanks for reading!

Thanks Thaddeus!

Thaddeus's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.

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Topics: London, England, Identity, Personal Learning