Sunday, July 6, 2014

Last of NYC and Krakow Day 1 & 2

Disclaimer: This was written after a sleeping pill and very exhausting day, so it isn't my best writing AT ALL. Excuse this, please.

When I pictured going on my Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellowship through NYC and Poland, originally I felt as though it would be too horrific to share on a blog post or in vlogs. Gradually, I felt as though blog posts may be appropriate (especially due to the significant number of books I am selling on the subject...I knew people reading my blog might be interested in hearing about my experience). Although vlogs are out for most things, I am doing one big vlog to attempt to include everything into one compact little vlog for later. Two may be required for all the footage, but I will only include the happier things we see in Poland.

This trip is particularly special to me, not just because of the connection with the Holocaust, but because my great-grandfather was born in  Przytarnia and some of my family apparently lived in Poland until the early 20th century. Apparently, we go way back in Pomerania (Przytarnia and Gorki), but family legend has it that my Polish family moved to Warsaw for a tick before heading over to the USA.

As a warning, this post may be a bit long, but there are lots of pictures!

New York

After Luke left, our group spent three days in New York City getting to know one another, reflecting on assigned readings, touring the Museum of Jewish Heritage and listening to survivor testimonies. In preparation to our trip to Poland, we met three Polish Holocaust survivors with three very different stories; Bronia Brandman (clicking on her name will take you to her testimony on YouTube), Toby Levy (I could not find her testimony, but if you click her name, it will take you to an article about her...she survived by hiding from the Nazis in a barn near Lwow with her family) and Sol Rosencrantz (I cannot find anything him about him on the Internet).

Although hearing these stories is emotionally taxing,  we were able to temper it a little bit with this gorgeous view from our conference room:

Traveling to Krakow
I travel quite often and typically it is pretty smooth. I have only ever missed two flights, and only one of those times meant staying somewhere without a bag. However, that was so traumatic that I always pack at least two changes of underwear and two extra shirts. It turns out I needed them on Wednesday evening. We arrived at the airport for our 8:30pm flight to Krakow. After a torrential downpour, our plane was delayed by a few hours as it had been diverted to another airport in order to avoid the storm. They planned to bring it to our airport, but in the process our pilot somehow hit his/her head on something and had to go to the emergency room. Our flight was then cancelled and rescheduled to the next day. They gave us hotel rooms in the Marriott across the street, but wouldn't give us our bags because the staff was far too stressed out. There were barely any rooms left and because of this, we all had to share rooms, several of us having to buddy up into beds. I ended up sharing a bed with someone I had only met on Sunday, but it was still a bonding experience to say the least.

The next day, we went back to the airport to get on our flight. After we boarded the plane, it began storming again and the entire airport was shut down for 3 hours. We sat on the tarmac the whole time. As the plane was mostly empty, I was able to get three seats to myself and lie down flat while I watched Divergent. But the longer our delay, the more likely it was that the pilot would not be able to continue the flight due to the rules in place about how long s/he can work. After fully expecting to be turned around, we took off with almost no warning and were on our way to Munich (our stop before Krakow). I slept like a baby after our dinner, mostly due to the ability to lie flat.

Crappy iPhone photo of how empty the plane was.
We landed in Munich without much more issue. We stopped for three hours where we enjoyed the free WiFi and I watched an episode of Dance Moms. Never having been to Germany before (I know--odd considering what I do for a living), I decided to partake in some yummy German pretzels before we took off to our final destination.

Delicious German pretzels in the Munich Airport
Krakow--Days 1 & 2
We finally arrived in Krakow after what seemed like years. I had no idea what day it was, but I was just glad to be there. We had dinner at a lovely cafe called Karma (it serves only vegetarian fare, which suit me fine) and then I went off exploring Old Town by myself, my camera serving as my company. Here are some photos I took of Old Town at dusk:

The next day, we took a walking tour of the city, hitting most of the Non-Jewish key points, including the Theatre, Old Town, Jagiellonian University, Wawel Castle, the Gestapo Headquarters (for non-Jewish prisoners) amongst others. My feet were sore as heck after that, but it was great to finally be using our muscles and being in the place it took so long to get to! I've added captions for the places I know about, but left others blank. Sorry was too much in one day!

Fortress walls

Old Town

Sheep in Old Town
Near Wawel Castle

Inside the Wawel Castle

Little house near Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle

Wawel Cathedral

Gestapo Headquarters

Gestapo Headquarters Plaque
Krakow Dragon

Jagiellonian University courtyard

The Pope Window
Wawel Castle Cathedral

Wawel Castle Cathedral
When we finished all of this, I went to hear a friend of mine translate for a survivor, Lidia Maskymowicz. Lidia is not a Jewish survivor, but was experimented on in Auschwitz as a three and four year old child, so the story was very interesting and very different from the "usual" Holocaust narrative. It was a very interesting talk and you can listen to a short testimony by Lidia here.

That's it so far. We will tour the old Jewish Quarter tomorrow, so that should be fun. In the meantime, I am going to sleeeeep. I hope you enjoyed this post. :) (I have taken a sleeping pill so this may just be terribly written). 

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  1. I once dated a guy from Poland and he used to show me pictures of his home country all of the time. I was always dazzled by the architecture. Looking at your pictures today, nothing has changed, I am still taken in by the grand architecture. What an amazing experience for you. I would definitely be back again to see what else you are up to in Krakow.

  2. Michaela - emicphanyJuly 8, 2014 at 5:29 AM

    Thanks so much for the post, you took amazing pictures
    I think that it's so important to know out roots and to remember history so that we could learn form it
    I can't even express how lucky i think you are to be able to meet with a survivor, I think that one on one would've brought you such a deeper connection and understanding to what happened with her, i'm always a sucker for people's life stories

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