Yona Grinberg: following a group root journey 2008

In October 2008, a group of Siedlcer’s Descendants paid an exciting visit to Poland (Shorashim / root Tour),  putting an emphasis on a visit to Siedlce  and searching for roots. The group has visited Tzsthobh, Lodz, Warsaw, Treblinka, Siedlce, Krasnik, Sndomiz and Krakow.

In Siedlce a dinner took place with the mayor, his secretary, a local journalist called Ante, Mrs. Alicia Kostzian, Mr. Edward Kfofkh (a historian who deals in preservation of the Jewish legacy).

A short press conference took place, with two journalists and a photographer, the mayor, Mrs. Bella Froznski (the chairlady of the organization), the tour guide – Mrs.Yona Greenberg, who translated from Polish to Hebrew And vice versa, and a member of the organization who participated in the journey – Mr. Meir Rosenfeld. The atmosphere was very good, pleasant and optimistic.

 The group member has visited the city archive to look for documents and went for tours in the city to locate families’ Addresses.

In the visit, the goup members saw Siedlce as a growing and developing modern city. Hagemina organization has cleaned the cemetery prior to the visit, so the visitors could see it surrounded by walls all around and without any weeds.

The words of the tour guide, Mrs. YonaGreenberg

Few words to summarize the journey, since this was certainly not a tour.

And this is the reason we gathered here happily.

It all began with a message from Bella stating an intention to organize a group that would leave for Siedlce this year,

What will be the group’s size? When will the journey occur? There was still a need to talk to people, organize meetings and update lists. Many words were written, lots of questions were asked, weather was discussed, hotels and meals were arranged.

But, at the end all answers were received and the group was on its way.

We arrived to Katowice at night slept in Czestahoba.

First thing in the morning – a problem! Not enough break hours (for the driver) prevented us from going onward.

A solution was found – the group went on a local tour – to Yasana Gura monastery.

Up the street we climbed and looked at the face of The Black Madonna.

Lodge has been planned next.

Ziva Levin came with addresses – took photographs and although we didn’t receive any chocolate – we did see the family’s factory.

Along  Piotrkowska Street  we marched, met with Lodz industrialists, admired the monument at Radgast station after seeing Moses’ statue.

On to Warsaw we continued, arriving in the evening hours and taking the royal route with the sculptures.

The old city with the palace and the square and later on – the monument of the Polish uprising has ended the city tour.

Dinner at the “Maget” restaurant, with traditional Polish dishes was a nice end for a long day.

Here we were joined, for a few days, by our guest – Meir Rosenfeld.

The following day was dedicated to Jewish sites in the city, the Ghetto wall, the orphanage and the big cemetery, where Shlomo Ziserman looked for his godfather’s tomb.

The road to Treblinka wasn’t long enough for all of Shlomo’s stories.

  And there, at sea of stones, we stopped next to the ones most important to us: Mezrich, Siedlce, Warsaw – a little flower and a lit candle, and back to the trail of heroism in Warsaw.

The only remaining synagogue – Noz’ik, and dinner at Gaz’ebowski square –

A discussion with the Polish Community’s representative, Mr. Piotr Sandberg, concerning Siedlce’s preservation took one more day of the journy.

Friday has arrived and excitement peaked, as this was the day we went to Siedlce –

The road is unfinished and is under renovations – and it takes more of our precious time, which seems to drag endlessly, as we wish to see the city already.

What shall we see first? Which address shall we go to? Which rout shall we take? Our escort is flooded with questions.

Batya Prosanski has arrived to her childhood’s streets and saw here school, Bella documented it all,

Shalom, who brought his mother’s diart tried to find the atmosphere it described. Irit Lipson, her sister Batya and her daughter Limor Ner-Gaon sought the family’s home and shop and were shocked to discover how much the city have changed.

Benny and Leah Rebek entered Iaja’s home, where this wonderful woman gave shelter and hid people in spite of the danger.

Israel Lederman walked away and has left the group, worrying his wife Miri and the other group members.

Streets, houses, nursing homes and orphanages, the small monument in memory of the Community, a visit to the archive and searching the records

And the great desire to find some written memory of families and relatives.

Yehuda Jabelowicz has brought a picture of his grandfather who was a teacher, but isn’t mentioned in any registration books in the archive.

A visit to the cemetery reveals a broken fence and few tombstones begging for attention.

The visit to the cemetery is concluded by a “Kaddish” prayer, read by all the men.

Dinner and “Kabalt Shabat” were held with local polish municipality dignitaries and the mayor had a chance to see Jews for the first time. His honor was so excited and happy that he sang out loud.

On Saturday, after a ride in Siedlce’s streets , searching for Starwich and the Bells’ Gate, we continued to nearby Mezeritz.

Both Yona and Rachel have a personal bond to this place, but no one could direct us to ShkKola street –it has just vanished off the map.

All that is left from the beautiful synagogue are a few photographs kept by the flower shop owner, at the corner of the street.

The square, from which the Jews were deported, has a small monument commemorating the murdered Jewish community.

A Jewish graveyard into which the entrance is via a privately owned yard.

This graveyard is also lonely and forgotten. Benny Rybak says “Kaddish” so we know that someone still remembers the town’s Jews.

In Lublin – we’ve toured the old city streets,

To the Museum at the Wall’s gate we climbed, and heard explanations about keeping the memory of Lublin Jews.

At the Great Yeshiva of Lublin’s wise men we’ve set, watched by a Polish guard lest we take pictures.

At the end of the day we visited a restaurant which served every guest a dish of one kilo of mashed potatoes.

On Sunday we continued our journey to Krakow and stopped at the demolished Krasnik double synagogue on the way,

In Sandomiz, the wall is surrounded by a cathedral with covered images.

In Zabiltowska Gora next to the mass-graves, Leah Rebek criedfor young Leah’le,

And darkness prevented us from seeing Vishnitz, from where her family came.

Dinner this evening was accompanied by Polish folklore songs and dances.

We were a small group on the day we went sightseeing in Auschwitz, but it didn’t affect our excitement and the experience.

After visiting the camp we still had strength to visit the salt mines in the depths of Earth, the skeptics have licked the walls.

And we all admired the sculptures, the floors and the chandeliers.

On the last day of the journey we went to beautiful Krakow, and had to wait, yet again, for our driver to get his rest.

Then we went to Kazmiz – the Jewish quarter with the synagogues and the ducks’ market.

But this time Mira and Shalom Mendelssohn purchased mushrooms which taste and smell reminded all of day long passed.

Fodgoze – the area of the Ghetto and camp Plaszow has finalized the Jewish part of our journey.

Up we climbed onto the hill of the palace – the Wavell with The kings’ Cathedral 

And down we went to the city square, with roofed street market – the Soknitzh – where we could buy souvenirs.

A short rendezvous with coffee and cakein which some words of gratitude and thanks were spoken and we are ready for the trip back to the airport. A small confusion regarding takeoff time was resolved, so all is well.

You were a special and charming group   

And although walking and climbing the high steps of the bus was difficult,

It was solved by Yael’s resourcefulness using a small stool.

You have braved all the journey’s tasks.

And what remains to me is to say many Thanks for sharing the close and personal experiences with me.

Thanks to you I’ve reached new places and already feel as one of the town’s descendants.

And now we are waiting for the movie, the photos and the stories.

Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.