Going back to Poland

Almog Zoosman (Israel, UWC AC, 2010-2012)

Going back to Poland was a strong and powerful experience for me; it was like coming back to my cultural roots. My grandma, Lila, was born in Warsaw, Poland. During the war she and her sister, Hana, fled through Europe and Asia, eventually arriving in Israel. Regardless of the personal connection this land holds with my family, I must admit that I simply could not believe some of the landmarks of history that we saw. Walking on the roads which were the sites of the last walks of people 70 years ago was a highly emotional feeling of shame, pride, fear and curiosity, which made me speechless.

Shame, for the humankind and for the evil deeds that a mind can think of.

Pride, for my grandma, a holocaust survivor from Poland.

Fear, for the creative extent of the mechanized systems that the Nazis manufactured and for the fact that they were still human.

Curiosity, however, was the strongest and most underdeveloped feeling that this project created within me throughout the week, and the one that has endured the most.

Walking alongside the local people, seeing different faces, eyes, noses and mouths, I was curious about what each wrinkle holds in itself, what these local people’s eyes have seen? What sounds did these ears hear during the Nazi uprising? Did they hear at all? I wondered about the story behind each Polish person, regarding their own war experiences.

Though we came as a group, the internal journey of this project varied from person to person. The most shocking moments for me were to see the mountains of clothes, shoes and hair that were forcibly shaved in Auschwitz and are still remained. We saw suitcases labelled with real names but no corresponding faces. A sense of humanity was absolutely taken away. Birkenau was scarily huge, and imagining those faceless names and those nameless faces made me want to know and learn more, as well as feeling shocked by humanity of that time. It is therefore important to remember and talk about it and thus, this project week is highly significant!

As my grandma never talks about “those times”, this project has encouraged me to try and attempt as much as possible to ask, to dig in and to try and really get to know the different individuals we meet throughout our lives. Though I am only 18, this is the most important conclusion I got from this project week; there is a story behind each person, each wrinkle, and each eye. Our parents and grandparents hold in themselves pasts and backgrounds that might be worth hearing. So besides all the pain and anger I feel towards those times and places we visited, the project week has taught me a great deal about the different perspectives and angles of unity, as we experienced it through history and present.

-United Words Team-

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