First visit to Poland, her ancestral home delights Helena Lang, editor of Sainsbury’s Magazine

In the latest issue of Sainsbury’s Magazine, in store today, Helena Lang, editor, gives a personal account of her first family trip to Poland. In the issue, she reveals her thought-provoking experience of her father’s homeland, with its visual and culinary delights, made all the more poignant since her father left the country during the Second World War.

Whilst visiting Krakow and the south east of the country, Helena, who joined Seven as editor of Sainsbury’s Magazine in May 2009, discovered a nation steeped in tradition and fine food, but also a land full of surprises.

With an image in her mind born from sepia toned old family photographs, Helena expected to find a country laden with strife and hardship. Instead her initial impressions of the country came as a delightful revelation. The trip took in Krakow, where they stayed in the Kazimierz district, a visit to Auschwitz, a day in Wieliczka and trips to Zakopane and Tarnow.

Being an editor of a food focused magazine, gastronomic delights were not far from Helena’s mind, sampling Russian pierogi stuffed with cheese, delicious pork loin in a spicy tomato sauce, and incredible cakes and pastries, piled high with layers of puff pastry, crème patisserie, fruit syrups and dark chocolate.

Food was always going to be a major part of the trip. Helena’s paternal family were refugees in Britain after the Second World War and, like many immigrants, food and recipes passed down the generations were key to keeping their heritage alive in a strange new land. Regular family visits focused on traditional recipes including barscht (clear beetroot soup) with dumplings, bigos, a chunky polish-style cassoulet (a hearty dish with plenty of cabbage, minus the beans) and, of course, Jewish staples including rye bread, gherkins, dried meats, duck, dumplings, and dill on everything!

Helena’s holiday was arranged by Baltic Holidays which offers tailored itineraries and group tours in most of the Baltic States.

Helena Lang, Editor of Sainsbury’s Magazine, says, “I’m the first of my father’s children to visit the country, and to go with him and my English mother was an emotional journey for all of us.”

“I really fell in love with the place, you know a holiday has been successful when you start wondering if you can afford to buy a pied a terre there to escape to”, she added.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the Polish-born population is widely spread across the UK. In the year ending June 2010 they were one of the three largest non-UK born population groups in all countries and regions of the UK. London had 122,000 Polish-born residents, 23 per cent of the UK total.

Helena joined Sainsbury’s Magazine, from Source magazine, the customer title for the John Lewis brand, where she had been the editor since 2006. She also worked as Robinson’s deputy on the title between 2004 and 2006, and also edited Hachtte Filipacchi’s Psychologies magazine ahead of its UK launch.