Polish Easter, a family (re)union

Poznan, Poland – Easter is a big thing in the predominantly catholic Poland. Families reunite, from all over Europe, to break bread together. Students and workers abroad return to their parents and spouses. “You won’t find a single Polish person in the UK, the Netherlands or Germany right now.”

By Olivia Kortas & Kasper Goethals

“Hey Piotr, you also got off earlier today? You lucky ass! Have a nice Easter holiday!”, Robert shouts in Polish. To bystanders, it looks like the two Polish men are traveling together, but it is mere coincidence that the colleagues meet each other here, at a grey German gas station a bit south of Hamburg. Minutes later, Robert’s silver Ford is racing the German highways again, continuing his journey from Denmark to the Polish city Konin. Robert will see Piotr again after Easter.

Both men work in construction; they build wind turbines in the Danish city Herning, almost 1000 kilometers from where they grew up. Now they are returning to their families for Easter. In less than a week they will be eating numerous dishes blessed by a priest in church as tradition goes. Typical white sausages, cheeses with raisins, chocolates and pastries cover their dinner tables.

Students on Erasmus or abroad for a longer time, workers, both young and old, and whole families all over Europe are massively traveling back to Poland. Since Poland became a member of the EU in 2004, over two million Polish have left their country. Many of them have not returned home. The Christian holiday is important in the Catholic country and brings young and old back together to wooden dining tables and church benches.

“Easter is just as important as Christmas for Polish people”, explains Erik Rooze, a Dutch recruiter who has worked with Polish people all over Europe since the eighties, “in this period, you won’t find a single Polish person in the UK, the Netherlands or Germany, they all want to go home to celebrate the holiday, unless they can’t afford the trip.”

The day before Easter, the church packs with Polish families. They hold up their baskets with eggs, flowers and other food to receive the priest's blessing.
The day before Easter, the church packs with Polish families. They hold up their baskets with eggs, flowers and other food to receive the priest’s blessing.

Low-cost airline company Ryanair noted an Easter trend, also for Poland. Ryanair’s German press officer, Markus Leopold, points at the booking prices for the Easter weekend: A flight from Düsseldorf to Bydgoszcz costs €179 this Friday, April 3rd. A week later, the same flight only costs €33. Yann Delomez, marketing manager for France and Belgium sees the same thing: “We have not increased our capacity for the Easter break, but our flights for the Easter period are almost all booked out with well over 90% of our aircraft’s seats capacity reserved.”

Those who are not flying home, travel by train or take the car. When scrolling through online car-sharing services, the list of rides to Poland is long. Polish names and faces on the website all offer rides to Poland. So did Robert – next to him sits Michal, a student in architecture in the Danish city Aarhus. In the rare moments that Robert isn’t joyfully chatting away the time, Michal says that it would be very strange to not spend Easter with his family.

The PL number plates are everywhere on the German roads to Poland. “The traffic to Poland in the days before Easter is visible on the motorways with the direction to the Polish border”, says Klaus Reindl of the German ADAC, the largest automobile club in Europe. “The nearer to the Polish border, the busier the traffic”, Mr Reindl adds.

“This is like a black Friday. See how blocked the roads are?”, Robert says with a patient smile. Only when he has to break sharply, the laughter lines around his eyes turn to worry lines on his forehead. Nothing else manages to change Robert’s good mood. In a few hours, he will see his wife and his three young sons.