Hello, Warsaw

I meant to post this two days ago but didn’t quite get it done. Sorry!!

This past week has absolutely flown by. Here’s an extremely brief summary of what our goings-on have been.

On Tuesday we had the privilege of getting a private salsa dancing lesson! Although none of us were extremely skilled in the art of salsa-ing, we had a lot of fun.

Wednesday was probably the most thought-provoking and moving day we’ve had so far. During World War II, the Nazis (who were occupying Poland) established a ghetto in Lodz (which they had renamed Litzmannstadt). The Litzmannstadt Ghetto was the second largest one in Europe, with only the ghetto in Warsaw being larger. When the Nazis liquidated ghettos in smaller villages, the inhabitants were often deported to the Litmannstadt Ghetto. The conditions there were certainly horrible. Inhabitants faced lack of food, poor hygiene and rampant diseases on a daily basis.

The first place we visited that day was the Jewish cemetery. 43,000 of the graves there were from the Holocaust alone. There were many plaques on the wall of the cemetery for people had perished within concentration camps. Very sad.

Next we visited Radegast train station. This was probably the most moving place of the day, and possibly of the whole trip. It was here that the Nazis would bring people into the city to be placed into the concentration camp. However, this was also the place where (when the Ghetto was being emptied) people would be shipped to concentration camps. Inside the “station” there were lists of thousands and thousands of names of people who had come through the ghetto, and also lists of those who had been shipped out. It was weird to think of the hands that had written down those names….what were they thinking at that time? And what about each of those people? What was their story? How different was their life before the war?

We also toured around the rest of the city, and were able to see the borders of the ghetto. Overall the day was rather sobering, but still extremely necessary. I think the Holocaust is absolutely one of the most important topics to be taught in History classes…it is something that should never, ever happen again.

On Thursday we visited the palace of Izrael Posnanski, the man who built and owned the factory that now makes up the Manufaktura shopping complex. It was a beautiful home. I counted nine pianos just in the rooms we saw! In addition, I am fairly certain that one of the pianos belonged to Arthur Rubenstien – concert pianist and Lodz native. It was pretty legendary.

Today (Friday) we had to say good-bye to our host families and to the city of Lodz. Although we will be seeing our host siblings next week in Krakow, this was the last time we’d be seeing our host parents. :( It was really sad having to say good-bye. I love my host family! They were so amazing! Robert & Anna (& Monika), if you’re reading this – thank you again for opening your home to me and making me a part of your family for the past three weeks! It was so very wonderful! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

Our train left for Warsaw at 9 am. It was neat to be able to see the Polish countryside again. I was kind of surprised by the way the train was built. Yes, it was beautiful and nice and clean, but the seats weren’t built the same as those on Amtrak. I realized that it’s because when people travel on these Polish trains, it’s generally for fairly short commutes (an hour here, two hours there, something like that). When people travel on Amtrak, they generally are going to be on the train for something like four hours or more, and thus the seats need to be cushier. But, I digress. This train was nice, and most importantly, on time. :)

We met our coordinator in Warsaw around 10:45, and she helped us make our way from the train station to our hotel. The hotel we are staying in is very neat & tidy. There is a pool (which looks quite nice) and our rooms are in a row with all of the other American students involved in the program. Thus, we are all able to spend time enjoying one another.

Most of our afternoon today was spent in meetings. However, the meetings were still very interesting! One of the workshops was a discussion about leadership (what the word means, qualities of leaders, etc), and another discussed what we would be doing here in Warsaw as well as in Krakow. The most interesting meeting by far was probably more of a lecture, although it was extremely fascinating!!! We learned the 1000-year history of Poland, from 966 AD when the country was first “baptized” to the 123 years where Poland was divided between three different countries (and thus no longer technically existed as an independent nation) to the Nazi and Russian occupations to the end of Communism in Poland to today. It was actually extremely fun and fascinating. The man who gave the lecture was named Przemyslaw Zurawski vel Grajewski (Ph.D) and he works for the University of Lodz.Overall, the evening was wonderful.

Well, it’s getting pretty late here and I had better be getting to bed. We get to see more of Warsaw tomorrow! Hooray! Hopefully I’ll be able to update soon with lots of pictures :)



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