Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

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Poland: 1. Introduction (English)

Notes From a Visit to Poland, July 2002

(kindly translated by gaal from my Hebrew)
My maternal grandfather was born in Poland, in a town called Tarnow, not far from Kraków. When he was 15 he emigrated to Palestine on his own, following his older sister, and soon joined Kibbutz Alonim, where he met my grandmother, who had herself emigrated to Palestine on her own following her older brother, at the same age.

Most of their relatives who had remained in Poland were murdered in the Holocaust, and for years my grandfather wanted no thought of the country. After visits to Poland started to be allowed in the Eighties, my grandfather’s nephew Shlomo went there with the first Israeli academic delegation (one of the members of that historical delegation was Yoram Bronowski, RIP, about whom I’ll write another time), and when he returned he persuaded my grandfather to go to Poland too.

My grandfather and grandmother traveled to Poland in 1984, visited his town and the neighboring area, and tried to find out—with partial success—what became of his family, and even found his childhood home standing and were given permission by the present dweller to see it from the inside. In that trip my mother came with them. From then on we had been discussing another family journey, one that would include grandchildren, to get to know the past.

This is nothing like the Ministry of Education’s dubious enterprise, which ferries thousands of adolescents to a traumatic journey through destruction camps; ours was a visit concerned with family roots and not the affirmation of Zionist doctrine. Not everybody gets to know their grandfather, or to visit their grandfather’s birthplace and hear his memoirs where the events took place. This is an opportunity worth taking, and indeed six years ago a family trip was arranged and I wanted to join it very much, but could not, being at the time the property of the IDF. Since I was not the only grandchild whose participation was precluded, another trip was promised, and in the beginning of 2002 our family started talking about such a trip in July. This time I was able to join, and in the following entries I shall share my impressions from the visit to Poland.

The family:
A few additional words about the family, and an introduction of the dramatis personae. Here they are:
  • Grandpa Shmuel, Grandma Zafra
  • Uncle Yossi, their son, and his son Guy
  • Myself, their grandson
  • Shlomo, Grandpa’s nephew, and his daughter Rivki (Rivkah)
  • Hanna, Grandpa’s niece (Shlomo’s sister), and her children Meir, Dorit, and Shuli
  • Tikva, daughter of Grandpa’s nephew (Shlomo and Hanna’s brother)
  • Doron, Grandma’s niece’s son, grandson of her big brother

Note 1: Shlomo, Hanna, and their families are religious. Grandpa and Grandma and their children are not. I am a great apostate; the rest “keep tradition” to various degrees.

Note 2: Though not part of Grandpa’s family, Doron joined our trip because he never had another opportunity for a family visit to Poland, and this one seemed worth taking.

The itinerary:
The initiative for the trip came from the religious relatives on the side of Grandpa, and therefore the itinerary focused on Grandpa’s family. Grandma was born and bred in a small village in Lwów, now part of Ukraine, and it was not deemed practical to include a visit to Ukraine in the trip.

The itinerary had three focuses: religious Jewish sites (as far as I was concerned, we could have skipped most of these), family sites (Grandpa’s town, his house, his grandfather’s village), and the death camps (because well, how often are we going to visit Poland?)

More details will no doubt be added in the next entries, which will be more interesting.

Soon: The Warsaw airport; The ghetto; Mila 18; meteorological frustration.

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