Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Returning Home

Today we drove back to Warsaw.  Jakub met us at the hotel so we could say our goodbyes.  We were very grateful for his assistance at every step of the way and felt a real connection with him.

Before departing Radom we asked Dora if there was anything else she would like to see and she replied the train station.  It was from a nearby track that Jews were deported to Treblinka.  As Treblinka was our destination, it seemed appropriate to start from the same point. The day was rainy and only got rainier as we drove. 

Even with GPS it was difficult to locate Treblinka.  We drove through small villages with unpainted cottages and tall stork nests.  After some circling of the area we found some signs that led the way to Treblinka.  By now the rain was coming down very steadily and the day was gray.  Upon arriving we walked down a wide cobblestone path past rows of rectangular blocks, much like railroad tracks.  Dora told us they represented the long walk from the train to the execution site.  In front of us were large jagged rocks with the names of countries that were represented.  Walking past them we faced a large sculptural form surrounded by more jagged rocks that seemed to go indefinitely, each representing a community that was destroyed.  We found the Radom rock and actually noted that there were two.  We had saved some of the flowers we had been given at the opening to leave at Treblinka and placed them at both stones.  Then we pulled out my Kindle on which I have downloaded the Kaddish and recited it together for all our family members who were murdered at Treblinka.

And so our trip comes to an end.  For my husband and I it was a two part trip with a week in the Ukraine at my maternal grandparents’ ancestral town, followed by a week in Poland focused on my paternal grandfather’s town.  Our Poland trip included many interactions around an art opening and exhibition of artwork, a talk to high school students and dinner with a local Polish family.  Traveling with our friends gave me a unique perspective on the town of Radom and a glimpse at how my family may have lived.

In our discussion about this trip Dora said that in her prior four trips to Radom she was a visitor.  This trip was different, rather than being a visitor, she returned to her home town.  The difference was in large part that we interacted with Poles and were received with great warmth and interest.  On prior trips her visit was more insular with no interactions save the usual travel exchanges in restaurants and hotels.  On this visit Dora told her story to the next generation and shared her pictures and stories with the residents of Radom.  There was a rich interaction that made real connections between people and it is in these connections that real understanding begins.

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