Old necropolis

Since the second half of the 18th century Bialystok (at present in northeastern Poland, then Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) got a multicultural town inhabited by Poles, Jews, Russians, Belarusians, Tatars and Germans as well. First Germans appeared here as officials of Prussian Government. As a result of Poland’s partitions (after the third partition which was held in 1795) Bialystok was taken over by Prussia. In the first half of the 19th century Germans appeared here in most cases as owners and highly qualified workers of textile factories. It was the time Bialystok when was even called – “Manchester of the North”.

German culture was thriving. As a natural consequence of that settlement evangelical church and cemetery were established. The pictures which are published below depict German cemetery which was set up in the second half of the 19th century in ditrict town called “Wygoda”.

After the Second World War, during the communist regime, on the part of the cemetary were built block of flats and was created park.

Mausoleum and quarter of German soldiers who fell during the First World War.

Some Germans living in Bialystok became assimilated into Polish culture, mainly in the interwar period. German traces still exist in the form of surnames of Bialystok’s inhabitants. On the part of the left former evangelical cemetary was created lapidarium. Unfortunately, the huge part of necropoly was destroyed irreversibly, as I mentioned above, during the communist times.


Jewish problem, PR, Freud, Edward Bernays, era of a big lie and human nature

I must confess that almost every day I start with reading American Magazine “The Atlantic“. Since I am not native English, American, Australian or Canadian speaker, I still improve my English by reading American or English magazines and books.

And today I came across an article by Jeffrey Goldberg – “Glenn Beck’s Jewish Problem“, in which the Author writes about a serious TV commentator who “has something of a Jewish problem”, and later on:

“This is a post about Beck’s recent naming of nine people – eight of them Jews – as enemies of America and humanity. He calls these people prime contributors to the – wait for it – “era of the big lie”.

Among those eight he enumerates “Edward Bernays, the founder of public realtions, and a nephew of Freud’s”.

I myself am not a big fun of PR, and may even agree that we live in an era of a big lie, but consideration of the more or less important political, social or economic matters through the prism of nationhood, in categories of the nations, does not make sense. We – as human beings – still do not learn from history, we are permanently incapble of drawing conclusions from mistakes made by our ancestors. But the truth is simple and trivial – the human nature in its deepest dimension, in its deepest core, is still the same for all individuals in all nations, taking of course into account all superficial differences and nuances being the results of our diverse cultural and religious background.

Blaming Jews for PR and contribution to creating “era of a big like” does make the same sense as blaming Jews for October Revolution in Russia, or Georgians for Joseph Stalin. It is a road to nowhere.

Let us also take into consideration that PR is used with great pleasure not only by Jews, but all other nations, I mean not also governments and politics. We may know, we may feel that PR is not always honest, but still see that our governments, our politics, our coprporations, our firms resort to it. I am not happy with that, but when I take the deeper insight into me, I realize that sometimes in my private, daily life I also resrot to my “small, private PR” in interpersonal relations, but in any case I do not blame Jews for it.

Of course, I do not want to say, that it is OK, but human beings are still fragile and weak. They will always fall and stand up, without the end.

And let’s try to answer following question: are there really any persons who do not use some “private PR” in thier daily lives? And whose the gulity?

Autumn memories – melancholic countryside – part 2

Lightly hilly landscapes, all colours of the autumn – red, yellow, brown, orange and still green forests, grasses and picturesque groves; small villages lost between delicate hills; medieval hill forts, in 11th – 13th centuries, belonging to Ruthenians, some of them from 14th century were established by Lithuanians; many of the Ruthenian hill forts got conquered and burnt probably by Yotvingians – last Indians of Europe – as called them Polish Noble Prize Winner Czeslaw Milosz – the mysterious tribe of Baltic origin, totally destroyed by Teutonic Knights. Tiny and cozy wooden houses with their gable roofs and open to guests – porches, wooden crosses by the side of the roads. And all of these in the mystic rays of the setting autumn sun. Dostoevsky used to say: “Beauty will save the world”, and he was right!

Unknown and unexplored fort hill? Between Sadowo and Suchodolina (North Eastern Poland)

I wrote about this interesting and mysterious place in following post: Różanystok, św. Jan Bosko, grodzisko i w zasadzie o tym, że nic nie dzieje się przez przypadek

Is it a fort hill? A former pagan cult place? Or a natural hill? If it is a fort hill or pagan cult place, whom its possessors were – Balts (Yotvingians or Lithuanians) or Slavs? Not so far from this place there are other fort hills – in Trzcianka, Aulakowszczyzna, Milewszczyzna, Grodzisk, Grodziszczany, Bachmatowka – Miejskie Nowiny, and only one of them was really explored by archeologists – in Trzcianka. We know – with great probability – that Trzcinaka was established by Slavs. But who set up those other settlements?

For the purpose of this post let us stay by the version that it is a fort hill – it is more interesting and imaginative one!

Almost completely unknown Irene Gut

If it were not for an accident, probably for a long time I would not know anything about Irene Gut. Precisiely if Dan Gordon did not write a play, if Michael Parva did not direct it and Tovah Feldshuh did not play a heroine and if accidentally I did not watch TV at proper moment I would not hear about Irene Gut – Polish woman who saved twevle Polish Jews.

During the World War II Irene Gut was forced to work as a housekeeper for a prominent German officer. For almost two years she had a courage to protect and give shelter fo twelve Jews. She hid them in a villa of her “employer” – mentioned above German. When he got to know her “mystery” gave her a dramatic choice – she could stay his mistress and save twelve Jewish lives or cause that her “charges” would be given away for sure death. For Irene Gut there was only one possible choice. She decided to sacrifice her dignity and purity to save people’s lives. For an ardent catholic woman it was a really dramatic decision, but she did not have doubts that her duty as a human being and catholic was to act on behalf of her neighbours.

It is a strongly impressive story, but In Poland only few heard about Irene Gut. Myself, tohugh I am Pole interested in contemporary and past relations between Poles and national minorities and ethnic groups, in Polish history, have not heard about courageous Irene Gut. I confess it is a shame. But I blame not only myself, there is a great negligence of Polish magazines, Polish press, Polish media at all, Polish schools, educational system, Polish Univeristies, etc. I have been always interested in searching and finding such stories like that about Irene Gut and have not come across even mention of her anywhere.

It is difficult to understand. Now in Poland we are witnesses of a wonderful rerbirth of interest in Jewish history and culture. Many exhibitions, many concerts, many books, articles, documentary films dovoted to Polish Jews, to Polish Righteous among the nations and almost complete ignorance with regard to Irene Gut.

I am a little bit ashamed.

Farewell to the relics of old cosmpolitan town?

Old Bialystok, bearing witness to its rich multicultural past, is more and more yielding room to rapid and slightly chaotic growth and modernization. It is a great pity that it is happening at the expense of old wooden and picturesque houses with twofold roofs, fabulous gardens, 19th century brick rent buildings and old, narrow and cobblestones streets. I do not mind growth and modernization. Bialystok (town in northeastern Poland) especially needs a modern arcihtecture, numerous innovative investments, new roads, airport, but municipality should thoroughly think over the vision of the town. Local officials ought to define the real identity of the town referring to its multicultural history. It is easy to build the town without the spirit, where there are no ideas uniting its inhabitants. In fact, no connection exists between Bialystok from the times before the World War II and contemporary Bialystok.

I heard a story about a Jewish woman who was born in Bialystok in 1920s or 1930s, who came here in the second half of 1990s and stated that she did not recognize her native town. In her opinion the old and present Bialystok were two different worlds.

Unfortunately many its inhabitants do not even know its rich history. Town without its history, inhabitants without consciousness of their native town’s history probably won’t be proud of living here. They won’t know that their town’s face was shaped by Poels, Jews, Germans, Russians, Belarussians. There is a deep necessitiy to refer to its roots.

Bialystok was significantly destroyed during the World War II. Presently we do not have many monuments witnessing its rich history. Those ones which survived do not appear to be especially spectacular and stunning, but they still retian spirit of the past and they are worth preserving.

I think that there is a possibility to save relics of the past and develop the modern architecture without destroying the old and apparently unspectacular buildings, streets or gardens of the town, where before the World War II several nations lived in relative peace. These places still hold the atmosphere of old times and are capable of arousing imagination.

Below there are presented pictures taken about one month ago, they depict old cosy houses, lush gardens which one day may just disappear…

Irena Sendler – The Righteous Among the Nations

Yesterday Irena Sendler died in Warsaw. She was a real hero, exceptional person, who appears rarely in all societies or nations. During the World War II she together with her friends and many other unknown people saved about 2.500 Jewish children from Warsaw ghetto.

Irena Sendler worked at that time as a social worker in a municipal office in Warsaw and also as a nurse. Many times as a nurse she visited Warsaw ghetto and “smuggled” little Jewish children hidden in packs, cartons, bags to the Aryan side of the city. Later on those children were taken and looked after by Polish families and nuns in convents. Members of Polish Resistance forged documents for those small survivers to hide their Jewish descent; according to those false documents they were Polish children.

All those people who were involved in helping Jews during the World War II in Poland were exposed to capital punishment. It was not necessary to save or hide Jews to be killed by German Nazis, it was enough to give food, slice of bread, a mug of water, clothing for fugitive from ghetto or from train going to the extermination camp, or for hiding Jews.

In October 1942 Irena Sendler was apprehended by Gestapo and sentenced to death, but her friends bribed a German warder, and even though she was in the list of executed people, she stayed alive.

For many years she was an unknown person, especially in communist Poland. As she was a member of anticommunist Polish Resistance, it was forbidden to talk about such persons in communist country, even if they were real heros.

Only in 1965 Irena Sendler was given the honourable title – the Righteous Among the Nations – title granted by Yad Vashem for people who helped and saved Jews during the horrific period of the war. Israel Institute as a first appreciated greatness, bravery and heroism of that fragile, modest and humble woman.

Irena Sendler was compared to Oskar Schindler, but it was not right. Schindler was a German entrepreneur and as a German he was not exposed to death penalty for his activities on behalf of the Jews, he did not risk his life helping Jews as Irena Sendler did.

She is an excellent example of a quiet, peacful hero, who does not search for a fame and publicity. She has been always smiled, modest, humble and good to all people, who were in need, who were poor and weak.

Irena Sendler was born and raised in Polish intelligentsia family. Her parents taught her that people deserve help regardless of their descent, nationality, material or social status, sex, race, religion. Her father was a doctor in a small town near Warsaw – in Otwock – were he treated mainly the Jewish poor and died when he caught typhus from his patients. It was her first lesson of the sacrifice on behalf of the other and she grasped that lesson very well.