Gluten Free in Poland

Im on so many gluten free forums and Im constantly replying to the same questions about gluten free in Poland, so time to make a post me thinks!

Being gluten free in Poland is getting easier and easier. While some smaller towns mainly sell gluten free in specialist “health food” stores, larger chains usually have some items available. Some shops will have just a few items, scattered around the shop, others will have huge sections or even entire aisles dedicated to gluten free.

The main Polish brands are all clearly labelled with images for egg free, gluten free, wheat free, lactose free and so on. Its really very easy, even if you don’t speak Polish to find what you need.

The main chains that stock gluten free are:

  • Auchan, most stores have a large gluten free section.
  • REAL
  • Carefour, some of the larger stores have an entire aisle dedicated to gluten free.
  • Piotr i Pawel
  • Alma
  • Intermarché
  • I will mention Tesco here, because they recently introduced gf bread to their stores, this is all they will have though, so if you want other things and have other supermarkets available, give it a miss. Edit April 2016. Tesco has recently done a magic turnaround and is now one of the best for GF near me. Go Tesco!

For eating out, the words bezgluten and bezglutenowy will be your best friend. Both mean glutenfree. Pronounced how they are read. A visit to celiakia.pl (Polands celiac society) is well worth your while. The english section is tiny, but if you stay on the Polish section you will find lists of restaurants checked and approved by the celiac society. Menubezglutenu is another site which lists places with a glutenfre menu, you can search using a map, in polish and english.  Many upmarket restaurants have their own gluten free menus. Steer clear of basic road side establishments, as they mainly serve gluten loaded traditional Polish cuisine and will probably not even know what gluten is.

Poland also has some 100% gluten free establishments.

  • Dom Pod Ptasznica – a gluten free guest house in the mountains. The owners are both celiac and all the food they make is gluten free and wheat free.
  • Friendly Food Poznan – A totally glutenfree cafe / restaurant with amazing food. Review here.

Some of the common (gluten free) Polish brands are:

  • Balviten
  • Natura (meats)
  • Bezgluten

Some other things to look out for:

  • Grycan ice cream, all but 2-3 flavours are gluten free and labelled accordingly
  • Goplana chocolate, Poland’s oldest chocolate brand, all labelled bezglutenowy on the back and super yummy (I have yet to find a flavour with gluten)
  • Costa coffee (also sometimes called coffee heaven) have individually packed cakes that are gluten free
  • Trendy Vegan / vegetarian cafes seem to be all over Poland, they will usually also have a ton of gluten free stuff on their menu. Check them out!
  • Rossman – while a sort of chemist, often stock gluten free items.

If you are an expat, several pre schools now offer bezgluten food and have been trained and approved by the celiac association. YAY! 🙂

Be careful with:

  • Polish hams, sausages and bacon – almost all contain gluten
  • The famous polish kielbasa! ONLY buy the ones labelled gluten free.
  • Cross contamination, while many places may be able to give you something gluten free, the knowledge regarding cross contamination can be a bit hit and miss
  • Bakeries offering gluten free, these items may very well be baked on site which would make them low gluten, not gluten free, always ask and dont buy anything that isn’t individually wrapped if you are shopping in a bakery that also handles gluten items.
  • Airports! If you are going to be stuck in one for a while, bring food. Not even Warsaw airport has anything on offer.
  • Hospitals. No, really. Polish hospitals are terrible at feeding celiacs. If you end up in one (God forbid) you need to bring your own food. There are some exceptions to this, the lung clinics in the mountains see CF patients from all over the world and they are usually ok to feed those with allergies and celiac also.

Enjoy Poland and have fun 🙂

For more tips on Poland and gluten free life in general, join me on facebook! 

Wiosna visit.

My last visit to Wiosna they had 53 children.

53.

And thats one orphanage in this area, there are many more. 21 babies, 7 below 4 months old. Now, those of you who have kids know that buying nappies (diapers for the American readers) is expensive, and no matter how much you stock up, they run out super fast. Imagine then buying nappies for 21 babies. I mean, you could fill 2 cars and it will still run out in a heartbeat!

Then the formula. The amount needed is unimaginable to me. While my school is collecting monthly now for them, it is just not enough. I have gotten another school involved also, and they do bi monthly collections, and there is a Polish lady collecting in her daughters class in yet another school. But what we bring them, its still not enough. Its like feeding a hungry dragon, now matter how much you give, the dragon is still hungry. Or like Elsbieta (who works there) says, its like a big black hole you can never fill. But try we must.

I wanted to set up crowd funding for them, but I was hoping to raise large amounts and didn’t want to do it in my name, I wanted the funds to go directly to them, but sites such as Just Giving do not let you sign up as a charity from Poland. Elsbieta is looking in to alternatives, but at the moment, it seems more or less impossible. Every site I checked so far does not let Polish charities register. So I decided to go for something smaller, just while we wait, to fill that big black hole a bit, but sites such as ‘go fund me’ are also not an option, as again, I can not raise money from Poland, only give! I am left with 3 other sites that I am looking in to at the moment. I desperately want to give my friends the option to help, even if its just a little.

I will update you all on this later on, now I will just leave you with some photos. And yes, I have removed the children’s faces. While they are all absolutely gorgeous, it is not right to reveal their identities. (But don’t I look good with a baby!!?? I might need to adopt a few!) -Linda

http://dzieci-wiosna.pl/index2.php

Krakow for the day

So yesterday we went to Krakow. Met a wonderful professor who spoke exellent english, she took her time to explain things thoroughly and answer my many questions in regards to previous results. We are now looking at antibodies to different pneumonias and other illnesses, she suggested that although the IGG subclasses and overall IGG was ok (a tad low but ok) that maybe perhaps the issues is that the immune system , although it has what it needs, doesn’t function normally when there is an infection, she will follow up with us once we have been to Rabka. She even gave me her personal mobile number. Such a relief.

We came home, and I was so tired I ate and went to bed with the kids at 8pm! Probably a good thing as I wont be getting a bed in Rabka! Ha.

I need to say that I have been so surprised by the lack of negative attention we get from A wearing a mask, I expected stares etc, but we have had none of it! Some looks, yes sure, but accompanied by smiles, nothing else. Infact, yesterday in the Krakow hospital a man came running after me to ask where I got the mask! She was wearing her pink minnie mouse mask at the time. I am so glad we got them, it was the right choice for sure. And the immunologist agrees she should absolutely wear one in crowded places until we have a firm diagnosis.

I wish I had been able to help the man with finding them, he spoke no english and me explaining etsy in Polish may not have been very successful! Good luck to him, poor family feeling that they need one. Makes me want to give him a hug.

-Linda

butterfly_carrying_flower

Orphanages in Poland

wiosna

Yesterday I did something that was absolutely heartbreaking but encouraging at the same time.

I visited an orphanage about an hours drive outside of Wroclaw. As a mother, my heart was breaking in to a million little pieces. How can someone just abandon their baby? And even worse, an older child! A child who on some level understands, asks questions and wants to know why? It took me the whole day to try to get back to “normal”. The women who work in the orphanage must all have super powers, many are mothers themselves, and their hearts must be breaking on a daily basis.  They all deserve a medal. On a positive note, I was really surprised at how clean it was, the abundance of toys and happy colours, I had expected the place to be like something out of those pictures you saw from Russia in the 80’s or the pictures coming out of Romania after its fall. Far far from it. The children are well looked after, 51 children, 50 staff. They are in nice clean surroundings that look like a modern nursery or pre school. There are many many kitchens and children are split in to smaller groups for meals and activities with an “auntie”.

I also felt encouraged, because I really think we can help them. By we, I mean my children’s school, the expat community and people around us.

I felt compelled to offer this home my help many months ago, some of the children were at a school event concert and I couldn’t take my eyes of them. Gorgeous beautiful lovely kids, and someone gave them up! I cant adopt them all, but I sure as hell can try to contribute to making their lives easier in any way I can.

I am not rich, I cant do this on my own, but I have a voice and Im able to ask others for help!

There are hundreds of orphanages in Poland, with an estimate of 80 000 children being in care today. Some orphanages are large, like the one I visited, others are smaller family homes. The children in these orphanages are not necessarily orphans per se, some have been given up, some have been taken from their homes by police or social services, others are in state care while parents are in prison. Some parents just cant cope and their children go to stay in an orphanage for a short while before going back home.

Many of the children suffer emotionally, not just from abuse of course, but the older children from knowing that they were given up.

In this particular orphanage children stay on average 6 months to a year. Some however stay only weeks, and one of the longest staying residents stayed 3 years. The orphanage has children from birth up to 12 years old. Once children turn 12, they must go to a youth home. Siblings are kept together as much as possible. Sometimes they get 4 kids from the same family! In other cases they will get a new baby every few years from the same family….. heart breaking, and social services just cant keep up.

Adoption is under strict regulation in Poland. Law states that children put up for adoption must go to Polish families first. If a child is unsuccessful in being adopted in the first year, then the adoption goes global with people from other countries being eligible to adopt. Catholic families have priority, and then Christians (many of the kids adopted internationally are older and already familiar with religion and Polish tradition, so I guess this makes sense for them to do it like this). Children with health problems or developmental delays often end up being adopted to foreign families, as most Polish families simply aren’t interested or cant support a child with special needs.

There are also age restrictions. If you are below 40 you can adopt a baby, but each year after 40 is the age that the child can be, so if you are 42, a child must be minimum 2, if you are 44, minimum 4 etc. You can be 47 and apply to adopt a 5 year old, and they will look at your case, but generally the rules are not broken.

In the orphanage right now, there is a 10 year old boy with his 7 year old sister. They have been there for two years and have been up for adoption this entire time. They must be wondering what is wrong with them that their real mum and dad left them and now no new mummy and daddy want them either. There is also a very small baby with a cleft palate, (given up because of this??) and a newborn baby girl. HEART. BREAKING. 51 children. Fiftyone.

Generally the children WANT to be adopted, a child who is “not ready” to be adopted would never be adopted against his or her will. The match is made in Warsaw in the central adoption place, then the child and new parent meet a few times before everything goes through. Single women can adopt in Poland, but not men.

The orphanage gets a government grant every month, this money must pay wages (fees for speech therapists and special therapies, psychologists etc) as well as bills, water , electricity and so on. They also must buy anything they need with this money. Food, clothes, school equipment and so on. I asked if it was enough, if they ever worried about being able to meet the children’s needs, and the answer was yes. All the time.

Anyway, less of the heart breaking stuff and more of how we can help these kids!

Many church groups and organisations get in touch with orphanages and help them. They receive many many toys and books, sometimes people just show up and drop stuff, other times its sent in the mail. Clothes are needed at times, but at the moment they have what they need. Christmas was recent and apparently people are very generous at that time of year. I also dropped off a ton of clothes and shoes at my visit, thanks to those who helped me collect those.

There are many things that are always needed and rarely get given. I will give you a list in a minute.

I am getting the PTA in my school involved, and Im hoping we will be able to deliver them a monthly food delivery. Non perishables obviously. This should take some pressure off. If you are in Wroclaw and want to help, get in touch using the message function on my facebook page.

Things they need on an ongoing basis are:

  • Underwear (new)
  • Socks (new)
  • Bedding / blankets / towels
  • Nappies
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby toiletries, such as cream for sore bottoms, talcum powder etc
  • Pacifiers (dummies)
  • Washing powder
  • Cleaning products
  • shampoos and soaps for children
  • tooth brushes and toothpaste

then they are slightly short of and would need the following:

  • Dictionaries english / Polish
  • Books for learning in Polish, text books, not blank ones
  • paper for drawing A4
  • Colouring books

They do not currently need any paints, crayons etc, as they are overflowing, they also have more toys then they can store.

For foods they would like:

  • Pastas
  • Rice
  • Beans / lentils / pulses
  • Tinned foods
  • Baby food in jars
  • Baby formula
  • Long life milk
  • Other things that don’t expire to fast can also be added.

If you can help, let me know, I will be going at least once a month, possibly more.

If you want to help the orphanage directly you can, they have a website.

there is also a Facebook page

Do let me know if you can help! Thank You!!

-Linda

(And yes, I asked if they had any Celiac kids, if the answer had been yes I wouldnt have left without them!)

Edit to add: If you are interested in adoption in Poland there will be many steps to go through, adoption is free but there will be some fees involved in the paperwork process. A family is checked thoroughly before being matched with a child. Orphanages have no say in which family adopts a child as they do not deal with the actual adoption process.

1. Wojewódzki Ośrodek Adopcyjny w Warszawie ul. Nowy Zjazd 1 02-018 Warszawa tel. 22 621 10 70 22 622 03 71 22 622 03 72 e-mail: woa.warszawa@mcps.com.pl

2. Krajowy Ośrodek Adopcyjny TPD Krakowskie Przedmieście 6 00 – 325 Warszawa tel. (0-22) 425 46 77, 425 46 88 faks: (0-22) 827 78 13 e-mail: adopcja@tpdzg.org.pl

3. Katolicki Ośrodek Adopcyjny ul. Grochowska 194/196 04-357 Warszawa tel.: (22) 618 92 45 e-mail: katolickiosrodek@interia.pl

Catching cold in Poland (totally = death)

96-flower_slippersYes, its true. Ask any Babcia! If you forget to wear slippers in winter or socks in summer on the floors, then you will surely catch pneumonia pretty much instantly. If your child does not wear his or her jumper you are a very very bad parent. Its true. Really.

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell a babcia (a grandma / older lady) that pneumonia or a sniffle is caused by viruses or bacteria, they know better you see, and the answer to all evils is to wear slippers at all times.

I think these babcias would have a heart attack and die on the spot if they knew that we in Sweden allow babies to sleep outdoors all year round. We also sleep with windows open and often leave windows open in such a way as to create a draft. Yup, even in winter. Air you see is good for you. In Sweden at least. In Poland a draft can result in imminent death almost as fast as not wearing slippers. (Read about the killer draft here on my friends blog)

Its not only babcias, also well meaning aunties, random strangers, and believe it or not, doctors! One would think that slippers is the answer to the entire worlds problems. Perhaps if we all wore slippers we could close down 50% of hospitals…. at least!

I have had well meaning stranger babcias stop me in the street to tell me to put more clothes on my kids. NO JOKE. The more polite ones just tut and shake their heads while giving me one of those babcia looks.

Now, lets not even start on the cold milk in the cereal in the morning…… (instant killer)

Linda

Dzien Dobry! Saying hello in Poland, and you MUST! 

say-clipart-11971028791107470649FunDraw_dot_com_Cartoon_Kid.svg.hiIn Poland you say hello. To everyone! I mean really, you do! I used to think my husband was super embarrassing when he walked in to shops in Dubai and said a bright and chirpy ‘Hello’ to the sales assistant or any worker who happened to be nearby. Now, after a little over a year in Poland I get it, and I also do the same!

Everywhere you go, bank, post office, small shop, you walk in, you say Dzien dobry. When you have paid, you say Do Widzenia. Yes, even in the bank!

The post office one is crazy, you actually walk in and say hello to the other people in the queue, not to the person working there. If you are not the talkative type you may get away with a nod. Its weird how courteous people in poland are, yet if you smile at someone they will think you are totally bonkers.

Im a smiley kinda girl, I guess its what I do, I smile at everyone (ok, maybe not everyone, but lots of people), and this seems to almost frighten polish people. I guess its a bit like the ‘no eye contact rule’ in London on the tube! But say hello you must!

So here I am, like a total lunatic. I happily say hello to the other customers when I walk in to the post office or a bank, I say hello to the security guard at the door of any building, and bye when I leave. I say hello to the joggers outside of school every morning, and the old lady who walks her dog. I say hello to the ladies at the till and the other patients in a doctors waiting room. I say hello to pretty much everyone. Not in Tesco though, its to big, to many people to say hello too! Only the security guard and the till person gets a hello in there. I also say hello to anyone before addressing them. So if I need help in a shop I would say, ‘Dzien Dobry, do you speak english’, rather then ‘Excuse me, do you speak english’? Unless its someone very young, then chances are they know english well and wont be offended at the lack of a hello!

And with that I bid you Do Widzenia! Im off to IKEA where I will say hello and goodbye to a ton of strangers 🙂

-Linda

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Blood tests, ambulance rides and extra oxygen.

Well, I guess I knew it already as I was writing my last blog post…. we got to the clinic and they wanted to call an ambulance to send us to hospital straight away (in my opinion a slight over reaction on their part). I refused the ambulance (why scare the children more then needed?) and drove home to grab bags and iPads and food. Dropped son at neighbours and went to hospital where we were admitted.

This latest hospital stay was actually the smoothest one yet, maybe because I am getting so used to them? Or because I know exactly what we need? I actually have a bag thats always partly packed in a wardrobe, likewise we have a small bag partly packed for son. After this latest stay the bags will be improved further, but they sure do help a lot, especially if someone else has to go to my house to get stuff.

The hospital stay in itself was eventful…. Every test they could think of and then some has been done. It seems Celiac kids haemoglobin is high, her body responding to oxygen levels that are too low and trying to adjust them….. clever on her body’s part, but not good for her. The pneumonia was also a bit of a mystery, a strange kind, very severe, not the kind of pneumonia ‘normal’ people get. Well, my daughter is anything BUT normal, haha (that haha is mildly hysterical by the way). Its almost as if she enjoys playing games with science, because her test results are always a bit strange and baffling.

We were sent to a different hospital to be tested for Cystic Fibrosis. Its a sweat test. Above 60 is positive and below is negative, but a negative should really be below 30 or it needs to be investigated further. Celiac kids result was 49.

I am calm. Hubby is stressed. And I remain calm. Sortof. Celiac kid is super exited because the trip to the other hospital was by ambulance, and the super cute ambulance guy gave her both lights and sirens the whole way after she asked to hear them! Haven’t seen a smile like that in ages!

Normal people don’t GET this many pneumonias. Is it still her RSV as a baby giving us crap or is it the celiac and the crappy immune system being silly? At this point I think we need more answers, because if my counting isnt completely off we are now at something like 11 pneumonias, a handful of bhronciolitis and countless upper respiratory illnesses.

I actually think we struck gold at this latest hospital visit, because they are as concerned as I am, and I didn’t have to be assertive (read bitchy) in the slightest to get some action.

We were admitted on monday evening and they finally let us go Saturday evening after some straight talking to from hubby. They just cant feed a celiac kid in a hospital here, and if you really want someone to get better they need proper food! Thankfully her oxygen levels weren’t super low so she was only on 1-2 litres until Friday then she managed ok without.

We have been back to the hospital daily since. She is having her last antibiotics today. Next week we go to a mountain town that has a specialist hospital to be admitted for a few days, there they will check her lungs properly and hopefully before they let us go we will know more definitive answers as to why she keeps getting this sick.

We did the Cystic Fibrosis genetic test too, Im guessing they will repeat the sweat test next week also. The genetic test only checks for the more common genetic mutations but around 90% of Cystic Fibrosis should show up in this. To be honest I don’t really trust the sweat test anyway because I’m so used to my daughter having results that aren’t ‘normal’.

I wasn’t really going to write about this at all, but then I figured that its probably good to write about it, because no matter what the results are eventually, our story can probably help others. Much of the information about cystic fibrosis is pretty scary, but to be honest, if she does have it, then we already lived with it for 5 years anyway, so putting a name to it (whatever it may be) can only be a good thing so that we can help her. We are obviously hoping its something else, but lets see.

Trying to explain now why we are going to hospital without being particularly sick has been harder. Then the question ‘will they poke me?’, which breaks my heart, because obviously they will but I so don’t want to tell her this and make her cry! By poke, she means needles. She is still bruised black and blue on her arms from the IV going in last week, her veins kept bursting and it was only attempt 5 that was ok!

Anyway, thats whats going on with us. Hopefully you are all having a better month then us.

I have decided to stay as positive as I can, feed the kids the best and most nourishing food I can think of and just breathe deeply as much as I can. Me losing the plot is hardly going to help.

– Linda