By David Gole
I just got back from my 10 day trip to Poland, a journey that I’ll never forget. Before landing in Warsaw, I wasn’t very hopeful that I was going to have a pleasant experience. Being American and Jewish, I was unsure whether the stereotype of polish anti-Semitism were true or not and prepared to face prejudice remarks from the local citizens. I thought that all of the buildings would have a Russian-Soviet look to them and that the city would look very gloomy and ugly.
To say the least, the city of Warsaw proved me wrong. Everyone that I have spoken to in Warsaw has been very hospitable and friendly. From seeing the city, the architecture is comparable to that of a western European town in a way that was quite surprising. I really learned a lot in Poland. I learned about impact of the Jewish culture on Polish history and how to bring recognition to a society that has pretty much forgotten. While this trip is going to be an experience of a lifetime, it is very fast-paced and there is always something going on.
We walked through the old town of Warsaw to see the castle and other buildings, which had been restored after the war. We also went to site of the Ghetto where Nazi Germany fenced off the Jews and people with Jewish lineage from the rest of the city. After visiting the former location of the Ghetto, we had a meeting to learn about their plans to build a Polish-Jewish Museum and introduce us to the Chief Rabbi of Poland Rabbi Michael Schudrich.
On the second day of the trip we met with Dr. Maciej Kozlowski, who is an Ambassador-at-Large for Polish-Jewish relations as well as the former Polish Ambassador to Israel. Following the meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the group had the privilege of attending a Ceremony to present Medals and Certificates of Honor to Poles who acted righteously toward Jews during the war.
After the Ceremony, I got a chance to meet with several politicians from Poland, Israel and the United States. That night, I attended a dinner where the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations presented their educational program and their plans for expanding it along the country.
On my last day on Warsaw were visited the Warsaw Rising Museum. There I was able to learn about the uprisings in Warsaw against the Germans in 1944 and against the Soviet Union 1970. At lunch we were able to sit down with Kevin Kabumoto, who is the Internal Unit Chief of the Political-Economic Section at the United States Embassy. Although the group drilled him with questions, he was able to answer everything with poise and confidence.
My memories of Warsaw are bittersweet. The fact that Warsaw was able to go through times of destruction and oppression and still rise up to be what it is now fascinated me. It is a good lesson to learn that whenever life keeps you down you can always rise up again.
Read the next blog about my time in Krakow.