Actor Andrew Rannells talks about his roots in Warsaw
My mother’s family is Polish, but neither she nor my grandmother had ever been to Poland. I felt like if I ever got the chance to see where we came from, I should take it. So one summer, when I was 24, I forced my friend Zuzanna, a Warsaw girl then attending high school in Moscow, to take me home with her.
We stayed with his grandparents, who lived in this very dark Soviet-style building, in what turned out to be a nice apartment. I was struck by their hospitality – they gave a warm welcome to someone they had never met before. When we arrived they served us a tomato based soup with meat in it, and I was so jet lagged that I ate it without hesitation. It tasted a bit ferrous, so I asked what it was, and it turned out to be chicken hearts. By then the ship had sailed – I was already halfway to the basin. I thought my grandmother would be proud. We also had so many pierogi, the best I’ve ever eaten – no offense to my grandmother, who made them all the time. I wish I could tell her that she was truly upholding Polish traditions in Nebraska, but she had passed away a few years earlier.
After all that eating, I put on my running shoes, and Zuzanna and I went for a jog in this nearby park called Pole Mokotowskie. It was very crowded, with people sitting around and having picnics. As I ran, people started giving me a thumbs up and shouting, “Bill Clinton! I was like, “What’s going on right now?” Zuzanna said to me, “Well, when Bill Clinton came over, he also jogged.” It was such a peculiar thing to do – running around in that park for no reason – that they were all like, He must be an American. I felt a bit embarrassed, but then I just accepted it. As said to Meredith Carey
Andrew Rannells stars in Prom, premieres December 11 on Netflix. This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.
More inspiration from Conde Nast Traveler
Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer Train Heads to Colorado and Utah
The World’s Best Destinations: The 2021 Gold List
Crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway
50 things to do in Europe at least once in your life
The most beautiful places in the world
The best travel movies of all time