Sunday, July 17, 2011


Between jet lag, acclimation issues and yes, some actual sight-seeing, it's been hard to find time to blog. Here's a run-down of our first few days in Warsaw.

Day 1: Flew out from the US to Frankfurt. The flight was fun (first class sleeper suites, what's not to like?) Despite the totally cool fold-down seats, though, I couldn't really sleep, since the plane was pretty loud and hot. From Frankfurt we flew into Warsaw in the early afternoon-- since none of us had slept, we were total zombies. We wandered around looking for food and settled for some not-very-good pirogi. Mother Superior Yid fell asleep during the meal several times. After returning to our apartment in Old Town, I finally fell asleep after being up for 28 hours straight.

Day 2: Muranow district. We walked out of Old Town to the City Center and visited the Jewish Historical Institute, which is housed in the Jewish Library building that survived the war. It stands next to what used to be the Tlomackie Synagogue (now a Peugot dealership). The museum was very interesting with a lot of information about the Warsaw Ghetto. Since I knew that the Institute is the clearinghouse for lots of Polish records, I had made sure to print out a short list of family records I wanted ahead of time. The archivist was very nice and made copies for me while I looked through some books. After lunch me and my parents walked up to Pawiak prison, the Warsaw Ghetto monument and saw the future building site of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which will probably look fantastic once it's finally finished. (Right now it looks like a Star Trek space dock.) The day's walking added up to about 8 km (5 miles).

The JHI and Pawiak prison were the first real Holocaust sites we'd seen, and I think my parents were pretty shaken by them. In the JHI things feel safe because you know you're still in a museum, but Pawiak is basically one long rectangular bunker sunk into the ground, very little light, and it's just you and the museum pieces-- oh, and the reconstructed jail cells. Definitely a bit of a head trip if you're not prepared.

It's been very interesting to look at Holocaust monuments and museums with my parents. In some ways they seem to be experiencing it in a more visceral way than I am, which I attribute at least partially to the fact that I've been studying these things on my own since I was fourteen. They seem to be encountering a lot of this stuff for, if not the first time, then really understanding it for the first time. For me, on the other hand, none of the information is really new. The experience of actually being there is, and that's been very interesting and sobering, but it's not like I didn't know what happened in the Warsaw Ghetto, for example. I even knew a little about Pawiak prison from Uris' Mila 18, but neither of my parents had ever heard of it.

Day 3: Worst. Day. Ever. Abbot Yid got sick with Pilsudski's Revenge(TM) and at one point even lost consciousness. We were very close to calling an ambulance but luckily he's since recovered. Mama Yid and I spent the day running around relying on my extremely limited Polish, Google Translate, and a tiny phrasebook to get medicine, money, and groceries. About the only good part was that at least it stopped us all from getting on each other's nerves and demonstrated to my parents that I am in fact a reasonable competent adult. (In related news, apparently my many years of taking a foreign language-- though not Polish-- have come in handy.)

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