Knowing where you come from is important. Heritage provides a connection between the past a present, a way to appreciate your family members and inform where you’d like to be in future. Living in the UK, I’ve grown up around my English relatives, but I didn’t know a lot about the Polish side of the family. Recently, I took a trip to Warsaw to get in touch with my Polish heritage, and that would have never happened if I hadn’t discovered The Witcher. What started out as an appreciation for a series turned into a pilgrimage of learning about my family’s history.
When The Witcher 3 was released in 2015, I didn’t know anything about the series. After playing the game I became hooked on the journey of Geralt of Rivia. I was blown away by the rich world, complicated characters and political themes. It made me want to do more research and I decided to read a few of the books written by Andrzej Sapkowski.
The more I researched The Witcher, the more I came to see how it was a symbol of Poland. Geralt provided an anti-political point of view in a world where plots and intrigue were the norm. It served as an allegory for Poland’s tumultuous history and oppression under communism. Geralt did all he could to resist getting swept up in conflicts that would only lead to more violence, but inevitably he found himself pulled in. In Geralt, I saw a character that wanted to find the middle ground, to not give in to the lesser evil. This led me to think about my Polish family.
I knew my grandad came from Poland, but he’d passed away before I was born. It turned out that my mum and aunts didn’t know much about his past either. I played The Witcher 3 several more times until the idea came into my head that I wanted to embrace a part of myself I didn’t know about.
After finding out I had cousins living in Warsaw, I decided to visit for the weekend. So, armed with my Witcher (or Wiedzmin) wolf medallion, I packed up and took the plunge. I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When I arrived in Warsaw, I met my distant cousins Rafal and Darek for the first time. Both were incredibly friendly, offering to show me around Warsaw. During my time in Warsaw I saw the Old Town, explored the Bohemian Praga district, visited the Jewish Uprising Museum, stood atop The Palace of Culture and Science, strolled through the avenues of Lazienki Park. I ate pierogi (dumplings) and sernik (cheesecake.) I drank shots of vodka and ate cucumbers in the village of Kaine.
Best of all, I learned my grandad was born in the village of Korytno, near the town of Lodz. He moved to Manchester with my Italian grandmother and couldn’t return because he feared reprisals from the communist government.
Being in Warsaw showed me the resiliency of Polish people. It showed me how much they’ve overcome, just as Geralt has triumphed over adversity. Everyone has their own way of connecting with their heritage and The Witcher helped me connect with mine. I feel more in touch with my Polish family. I’m proud of my Polish background, proud of being a Witcher fan, proud of working up the courage to throw myself into the unknown.
If you come from a Polish background or are a Witcher fan, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts as well.