Monday, December 18, 2006

A Jewish Poland

Poland has, at the same time, a very rich and tragic Jewish history. The holocaust's Jewish victims total over 3 million in Poland; and although first the Nazis and then the Communists devastated Jewish communities across the country, a few remnants of this past-life remain. Only traces are left of Jewish culture here, but the traces compound into something larger and slightly tangible.

Matza (maca) is displayed in storefront windows, challah (chalka) sells on bread shop shelves, six-sided stars wrapped in garland and lights adorn the tops of lamp posts in a few streets in the city center, the elderly walk slowly on the sidewalks and I can't help but think of what they saw, what they know, and what they pretend to forget.

We've taken a few pictures, mostly in Krakow, of Judaica we've spotted. A stained glass window in Tempel Synogogue in Kazimierz, an old building with paint, stars, and Yiddish flaking off its walls, our friend Alan and Bhads at Alef (an amazingly tasty Jewish restaurant in hot chocolate of my life!), the musicians in a Jewish music concert we went to in Krakow, and a Star of David decoration on Wawelska street in the city center.

It's the holiday season, which means that the city is singing Christmas-Christmas-Christmas everywhere. But it's hard not to consider what life here in Katowice, and across Poland, was like 70 years ago...60 years ago...50 years ago this time of year. Families could have been celebrating Hanukkah in their homes, maybe even without their curtains drawn. Then, without reason, there was silence. The silence is still here, but it's a different kind. The culture here has not completely vanished...but then again, how could it?

1 comment:

kara said...

Lovely post...and I learned a lot too.