Polish Post Office is my Former Home

icelandic airlines
Icelandic Airlines Poster
Photo: Björn Larsson

In the summer of 1968 my brother and I formed a student travel group to Europe for $99.00 round-trip. What did you get for 99 bucks? A round-trip airline flight to Luxembourg via Icelandic Airlines Prop-jet. That's PROP-jet. If you are too young to know what that means, it means the plane had propellers. While most flights to Europe with an all-jet in 1968 took about 7 hours, with a prop-jet the time was more than 13 hours with an hour stopover in sunny Reykjavik, Iceland. But it was worth the extra time considering we saved hundreds of dollars on a normal flight. We plopped you in the middle of Europe in late June and the rest was up to you. The only thing we asked was that you be in Luxembourg at the end of August for the return trip to JFK Airport. For filling up the charter flight my brother and I got our tickets for free.

We took the train from Luxembourg to Paris, went to the Renault Automobile factory and picked up our Renault 6 that we pre-purchased before we left for Europe.

Here's the deal: we buy a cheap car for about $1600, use it for three months traveling throughout Europe and bring it back to the factory after about 8,000 miles and sell it back for about $1000.00. In this manner we get the use of a car for the entire summer for less than $200.00 per month.

The factory makes out because they can sell a 3 month old car easily for $1300.00 doubling their normal profit of $300.00.

I suppose we could have tried to sell the car ourselves at the end of our vacation, but then we would have had to put ads in the papers and wait for someone to buy which would have been tough to do with a non-refundable, noncancellable return flight. Besides, car buyers would not pay us as much as they would to a factory that could give them the original warranty beyond the mileage we put on it.

When my father found out we were going to visit Poland that summer, he asked my brother and me to stop in the small village where he was born not far from Bialystok, Poland and to look up our family home which was taken by the Communists. He said that when we got there we could ask anyone where the Golombs lived. Well, we thought that was funny. My father left Poland in 1947. What were the chances anyone would remember where he lived twenty years ago?

Quick Facts: My father was born in Ciechanowiec, a city filled with thousands of Jews before WWII. Except for my father and less than a dozen others all the rest died in Treblinka concentration camp.

When we got to Ciechanowiec we asked the first fellow we saw and hesitantly asked him if he knew where the Golombs used to live; without missing a beat, he pointed us in the right direction. When we got to our ancestral family home we understood why everyone would remember where he lived: it was now a Polish Government Post Office. Before the war, my father's home was the biggest place in the province.

We haven't thought much about it in the last 40 years because there was no mechanism to put in a claim for restitution from the Communists. But now that Communism has died, it seems many of the former Soviet dominated countries have put procedures in place to make claims for land and property taken by the previous Soviet authorities. A Polish distributor of our phonecards has just informed me that I can now put in a claim for my ancestral home in Ciechanowiec. I'll start the process and let my readers know how that works out.

I have no idea how much money my house is worth but here's a family that really made out: I just read in Gadling that now that Romania is an EU member, it wants to buy Dracula's Castle back from the Habsburgs. The castle was confiscated from the Habsburgs by the communists after WWII and just last year the former royal family got it back through restitution. The Price? 60 Million Euros! In real money that's $79 million. The fortress served as inspiration for Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula". The castle has been a tourist attraction ever since.

I believe the Habsburgs turned down the offer; they are looking for $100 million dollars. What blood-suckers!

### End of my article ###

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