Family

Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory

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What do you do when an occupying force moves into your beautiful city?  You resist, of course.  Just how mightily the Poles resisted Nazi occupation was made abundantly clear to me at Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory.

It was a damp morning in Kraków, but I didn’t want to waste one of my few remaining days in the city.  I had an imperfect understanding of the location of Schindler’s Factory, but I alighted from the tram, south of the river, and began my search.  I knew that I was in the right vicinity when I entered a huge square, full of sculpted seats and a sad photographic display in black and white. Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) commemorates the Polish Jews who were imprisoned and died in the Kraków Ghetto between 1941 and 1943.

Oskar Schindler was a Nazi party member and a war profiteer, who earned the gratitude of 1100 Jews by giving them a second chance at life.  It is a remarkable story and one that touches me deeply.

The museum is a little off the beaten track, and my map reading skills sadly lacking, so I went inside the tiny art gallery on the square. The proprietor kindly gave me precise instructions (in English!) and I found my way around the excavations and building work to Ul. Lipowa.  It was raining steadily and I fell into step with a young Polish couple with an umbrella, who were also going to the museum. It being Monday, admission was free from 10-2.00pm, and understandably the museum was busy.  Initially I was a little confused by the layout, and the number of students clustered around, but once I found the correct door I was hooked.

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Just a handful of the former workers saved by Oskar Schindler’s intervention.  The museum takes you through the years 1939-45, starting with life before the war.  Then comes German occupation, with its restrictions and consequences.  People are evicted from their homes with nothing but a few personal possessions.  A curfew is imposed and it becomes necessary to queue for hours to obtain the most basic food.  Polish secondary schools and universities are closed.  The Polish press is liquidated.  Any figure of influence or authority is regarded as a threat and dealt with accordingly.  The use of home radio sets is forbidden.  Loud hailers broadcast propaganda twice daily, and eventually the names of those sentenced to death.  Inexorably the rounding up of the Jews into the ghetto begins.

And the Polish response to this?  ‘Secret’ schools conducted in defiance, though involvement was punishable by death or consignment to a concentration camp.  An underground press and formation of a resistance movement to sabotage German efforts wherever possible.  The gallery below features a ‘secret’ teacher and messages from pupils.  The first face reminds me so much of photographs I have seen, from that era, of a deceased family member.  Many stories, both of pathos and of heroism, are featured throughout the museum.

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Up concrete stairs to the first floor, the museum really comes to life, introducing a pre-war Kraków photographic studio and a cast of characters. Before the war Jews accounted for over 25% of the community, and both Christians and Jews sat together on the City Council.

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A narrow corridor leads to the Stereoscope- a device used for looking at individual stereoscopic photos.  They rotate inside a drum, giving the illusion of three-dimensionality.  This one dates back to the late 19th century.  It was a revelation.

On 1st September, 1939 war broke out, and on 6th September the Nazis entered Kraków. The Wehrmacht flag flew over the sacred site of Wawel, and from the outset the prohibitions and orders began.  Jewish shops had to be marked, and were plundered by the Germans, and all Jews over the age of 12 had to wear armbands with the Star of David on the right arm.  Racial segregation had begun.

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And then the nightmare of the Ghetto.  Intimidation, round-ups in the streets, imprisonment and interrogation in the Gestapo HQ on Ul. Pomorska and the prison at 7 Ul. Montelupich.  I read a few of the accounts of life in the ghetto, and the tram that ran through but didn’t stop.  There were sympathisers, of course, like Tadeusz Pankiewicz and his staff at the Eagle Pharmacy, who smuggled letters and messages to and from the ghetto.

17,000 people were contained within the ghetto walls, where 250-300 calories was the daily allowance for a Jew.  Details of the resettlement can be found here.  I had not realised that the arched shapes of the ghetto walls were intentionally designed to resemble Jewish tombstones.  How sick!

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Residents worked both within and outside of the ghetto, the luckier ones at Oskar Schindler’s Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik- DEF. These were taken to and from work under armed escort.  If you were not fit to work you would eventually be deported to an annihilation camp.

Zabłocie was an industrial area, with successful factories dealing in wire, mesh and iron products, soap, and enamelware and metal products. During the war a production plant for aeroplane parts and radiators, a crate factory and a barrack builders were added. Schindler took over receivership of the enamelware company, which was in financial straits, and with the aid of Jewish capital set about expansion.  A munitions section was added, to make mess tins for the Wehrmacht, and shells and fuses for artillery and air missiles, to assist in the war effort.  Working conditions were hard, but by steadily increasing his Jewish labour force from the ghetto, Schindler saved around 1100 grateful souls.

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In Schindler’s office a glass cube designed by Michal Urban is the centrepiece.  It contains metal cylinders, inscribed with the names of the 1100.

He was no saint, Schindler.  Perhaps that makes his story all the more remarkable.  I have included links that will enlarge on the story if you are interested. The museum is over 3 floors, in the original factory building.  I found it to be charged with atmosphere.

The Historical Museum website brings together information on all of the Kraków museums.

Piotrków Trybunalski

IMG_6661I’d like to spend just a little more time with my Zawady family, before returning you to the big city sights of Kraków.

We sat out, on my last night, under the stars and beside a roaring bonfire.  Myself and Jadzia, with husband Andrzej and sister, Ewa.  I was quiet, letting the conversation flow around me, while Jadzia and Andrzej took turns to stoke the fire, the kiełbasa bursting and sizzling on the grill.  My head was still full of the day’s excitement, with Meg in Łódź.

Broad smiles and hugs had greeted me when I pronounced the day ‘fantastyczny’ on my return.  Ewa was quick to produce a bottle of something soothing to rub on my black eye, which was rapidly developing after the previous night’s misadventure.  How is it possible to walk into a lighted porch lamp?  I’ve no idea, but I knew that an early start was intended next day.

If you look closely you’ll see Andrzej, sitting on the hammock.  For the past 50 years he has wanted a motor bike.  Finally, as he approaches retirement, Jadzia is considering letting him buy one.  And so we went to the Saturday morning market at Piotrków Trybunalski.  The last place it would have occurred to me to go looking for a bike, but sure enough, bikes there were.  And just about every other conceivable thing too.  We stowed our purchases (but not a bike- they were all too old!) in the car, and drove into the town centre.

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Seldom have I seen a sleepier Saturday morning than at Piotrków Trybunalski, yet the grandeur of the main square hints at its illustrious past. Medieval Piotrków was an important trading centre, and much later became the seat of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament.  In between times it was home to the Polish prince’s tribunals or law courts, including the Royal Tribunal, the highest court in Poland.  I knew little of this, as I strolled through the peaceful square.

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Under Austrian occupation in World War 1, Piotrków became a centre for Polish patriotic activity and a headquarters of the voluntary troops, the Polish Legions.  The town had a large Jewish population, and in October 1939 became the site of the first Jewish Ghetto of World War 11.  Fierce fighting took place but the town was subsequently occupied by the Germans for 6 years.  The Great Synagogue, listed as one of Poland’s most notable architectural buildings, was destroyed by the Nazis, but renovated after the war.

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As we wandered, Jadzia pointed out the school she used to go to, catching the early bus from Zawady each morning.  She was proud of the connection with Copernicus, and I was happy to be there with her.

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It was time to return to Zawady, but first a very swish motor bike shop, and a stop to collect cake.  Just one last coffee before we set off to meet Dad, for the journey south.  And then the hugs, goodbye.

Paula has a new approach to Thursday’s Special this week.  I think I might just squeeze this under the heading of Transience, don’t you?  Family meetings and former glory.

Jo’s Monday walk : Bełchatów

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I may have misled some of you, but I’m staying in Central Poland for this week’s walk.  I expanded on a little of the family saga last week in Zawady, the village where Dad was born.  Today we’re taking a stroll around Bełchatów, the county town, some 7kms and a bus ride away.

B is for Bełchatów covers much of the town’s history, so we can simply concentrate on how the place looks today. (Bew-ha-toof is very roughly how it’s pronounced)  The Tourist Information office is small but friendly, and perfectly placed for our start, on Ul. T. Kościuszki.  Ignoring the map in my hand, I’m drawn to a passage beside the TI, with a glimpse of green space beyond.  I follow it and find myself in rather a nice park.

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I cross the bridge over the lake and notice a canal leading off through the park.  The imposing building in my opening shot proves to be Muzeum Regionalne, a late Baroque listed manor.  I wonder about its contents, but my curiosity about the water is greater.  I follow it, out beyond the park. On the map it’s shown as Rakówka, and Olszewski Park.

I wander a little way to see where it leads but, when it seems I’m getting too far from the centre, I double back through the houses.  A street corner church thankfully looks familiar, and I’m back at the junction of 9 Maja and Kościuszki.

I look at the signs on shops for clues as to what I might buy there, hoping to purchase a few small gifts for the family.  My niece Ania and husband Hubert are shopping at the new shopping gallery and Tesco’s, but this has little appeal for me.  I prefer the more traditional shops, but they can be a little mystifying.  I’ve come full circle now and am back at the museum.

Opposite the TI stands Kościół Narodzenia, the church where Ania and Hubert were married.  I remember it as being very beautiful inside.

Beside the church, a new addition, Park Narutowicza, provides entertainment with it’s ever changing fountains.  And a little street art, too.

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From being a beautiful balmy day, the sky has begun to darken, exactly as the forecast had indicated.  I look for shelter, just in case, and am drawn to a sign, ‘Giganty Mocy’.  Not at all sure what I’ll find, in I go.  The gallery space is a revelation.

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The rain is spotting when I come out again.  A nearby florist provides the first of my presents, and I pause to read the synagogue sign. I backtrack a little way to a small indoor shopping centre, where chocolates and brandy are easily purchased.

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The sky gets blacker and the rain starts to bounce.  People scurry for cover.  Nothing for it but to seek shelter until Ania and Hubert have finished their shopping expedition.  ‘Degustacja’ meets my requirements perfectly.  There’s cake, of course!

Bełchatów has become a big town, with numerous housing estates, largely due to the proximity of the power station.  My walk today centres on the older part of town, and nearby there’s also a huge outdoor market.  I think it’s fairly typical of many Polish towns.

This website will give you a few facts about the area, including my recently featured Zbiornik Wawrzkowniza.  I have one more small town to show you before heading south to Kraków.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the series and can come along with me.  Meantime, coffee, I think.  Don’t you?

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Many thanks to all my contributors this week, and to my readers too.  As always, there are some great walks featured below.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo.

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I remember Peebles covered in snow and freezing! Lovely to see it through Smidge’s eyes :

The Tweed Valley and Neidpath Castle, Peebles

Jackie goes into a little history of an art form :

Tattooed

Roll up!  Roll up!  Get your tickets here!

T is for Theatreland#atozchallenge

Becky reminds me just how beautiful the Algarve can be in Springtime :

A quick stroll near Olhao da Restauracao

While Jude is having such a fine time in Cornwall!  Almost makes you want to move :

Walking around Trencrom

I am in awe of this lady!  Tish, doing ‘qi gong’, surrounded by dappled lushness.  Wouldn’t you want to be there?

The power of green and dappled sunlight this morning on the Linden Walk

From nature to architecture, with Jaspa :

The remarkable houses of Bello and Reborati, Montevideo, Uruguay

Do be careful Drake’s green-eyed monster doesn’t get you!

Airborne walk

And please help Esther up the hill, should you see her struggling :

Misty Morning Walk

Pauline gives us lots of reasons to visit Brisbane, and even goes interactive!

Final few hours in Brisbane

I knew about Dumbo in NYC, but I had no idea about this wonderful walk :

Brooklyn Bridge Park

I’m rounding off with a blog that’s new to me, but a place I’ve long wanted to visit.  Great photos, too :

Wye Valley: Symonds Yat Circular

That’s it for another week.  The weather here has turned dreary, but that’s Bank Holidays for you.  I have much catching up to do.  See you soon, and happy walking!

Six word Saturday

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Good time on a grey day

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The sun doesn’t have to shine to make me happy.  Being with people I love in a beautiful place does the trick too.  Thursday had me slip-sliding about at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (in the wrong shoes, again!)  But it was worth it when I found the rhododendrons in full flower in the woods.

I will be taking you there on one of my Monday walks, but I just had to share this beauty.  I half wondered if it would qualify as a wildflower for Jude’s Garden Challenge.  Then I decided it didn’t really matter.  She’ll love it anyway.

Happy Bank Holiday weekend to all you Brits!  Hope you find some sunshine somewhere.  Cate is having problems at Six Word Saturday.

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Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna

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Life is pretty busy for my Polish family, so when I was bundled into the car for a swift outing, between shifts of work, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Staying in rural Zawady, I seldom did.  Language so often seemed to get the better of me.

With interest I gazed out of the window as we passed through our local town, Bełchatów, and soon after that turned down a path signed Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna.  I know!  Not the easiest place name you ever saw.  Dad insists that Polish is simple.  You just spell out each letter, slowly. Mystified, I followed, as we left the car in woodland parking.  A complex of buildings sat off to one side, and a gate led to a small animal farm and stables.

My cousin, Jadwiga, smilingly explained that she sometimes comes here to ride, and pointed out her favourite horse.  It was dimly lit in the stables, so I can’t show him to you.  Soon though we were out in bright sunlight, beside a swiftly flowing canal and heading towards a vast expanse of water.

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Nestled in amongst the trees were a series of tall, green Toblerone-shaped chalets, several of them occupied.  A few youngsters lounged on the steps, idling the day away.  It felt a little like ‘Center Parcs’ and I realised that it was, in fact, a sports and recreation centre.  In Summer there would be an admission charge, but in low season it was free to wander, and we did.

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It was wonderfully peaceful, with just the odd angler, casting a line.  Fishing competitions are held here sometimes, and in high season there are kayaks and pedaloes for hire.  A small child, well-wrapped up despite the warm temperatures, was digging in the sand on the man made beach. Her Dad hovered indulgently nearby.  Looking out across the lake at a certain point it becomes impossible not to see what everyone takes for granted around here.  Smoke rising from the chimneys of the power station that brought employment to this area. A blot on the landscape.

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It’s rather sad, isn’t it?  But no-one seems to mind.  Jadzia had happy memories of distant summers, spent splashing around in those waters.  And we had no time to linger.  Her husband was off to work- at the power station, of course.

A warm glow

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Still in Zawady, this is where I lay my head on an evening, before waking to that lovely view.  I had a post almost in readiness for today, when Paula whispered ‘glow’.  Her wish is my command- if I’m able.  Go and worship the sun over at her place.  It’s beautiful.

P.S.  Grateful thanks to Lunapic– an old pal.

Jo’s Monday walk : Zawady

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In total contrast to my last, extremely urban walk in the city of Łódź, I’m taking you out into the Polish countryside today.  I’m going right back to where my Polish story began, in the village of Zawady, around 60kms south of the big city.  It’s a different world!  Dad was born in this village, more than 88 years ago.

As you can imagine, changes have taken place, but not too many.  The original farmstead is still there, but much of the land has been divided up between the family.  The photo above is the view I woke up to from my bedroom, on my first day back in the village.  Early morning mist burnt off to a beautiful day, and it was time to feed the week old ducklings.

I had been staying in the suburbs of Kraków, so the difference was considerable.  The daughter of a farmer, with memories of driving the tractor with her Dad, Zygmunt, when she was young, my cousin Jadwiga loves her garden.  But growing vegetables and keeping hens has to come second to her day job, and more especially to her dearly loved grandchildren.  They are seldom far away, as daughter Ania lives in a self build bungalow within the grounds.  Meet Kinga and Nadia, with mum, Ania, and Babcia, Jadzia.

For those of you who might have wondered, ‘what is Poland like?’ let’s slide the gate open, and we’ll step outside and see.  Poland is a big country and land is cheap.  It’s not uncommon to see ‘land for sale’ signs in the woods that surround most villages.

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The houses vary considerably, some still old farmhouses, others in a far more modern style.  I peep over the fence at the pond which once belonged to Aunt Lusia.  Now her daughter Graźyna and husband Marek have built a home there, among the cherry trees.

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You don’t have to walk far before you’re at the end of the village, and the woods beyond.  I retrace my steps, on the other side of the road this time, passing by cousin Marysia’s beautifully modern home, and a sign that cautions of the ‘good’ dog that bites!

A crossroads points to Ławy, 1.3kms away, and I am tempted to follow it out into open countryside.  But first I need to complete the circuit, back to the main road through the village.  These decorated crosses are found on many corners, scattered throughout Poland. Number 16F is Ania and Hubert’s house, and the garden design business she runs from home.

As the sun droops in the sky and the children play out on their bikes, I cast one more look at the cherries, and then head off down the lane.

Don’t worry!  I do return, but I wanted to show you the ‘whole’ of Zawady.  It’s not very big!  I hope you enjoyed meeting the place, and my family.

I’ve decided to link this post to My personal A-Z of Poland, which has been sadly neglected in recent times.  Much of what appears there is relevant and will provide good background, for anyone who’s interested.  Time to put the kettle on now, for this week’s shares.

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Many thanks to all of you who make Mondays a bit special for me.  Your support and encouragement sees me through the week.  If you have a walk to share and you haven’t joined me yet… well, what’s stopping you?  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.  You’ll be made more than welcome.

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Let’s start the ball rolling with Laura, in Costa Brava’s wild spaces this week :

A taste of salt and honey

Pauline treats us to a glimpse of an Eye, through floral abundance :

A Walk through sunny Southbank, Brisbane

Hop off your bike and take a walk in equally sunny California!

My weekly ramble- John Nicholas Trail

Yvette has her own unique and stylish way of doing things :

Jubilant Walk with Jo (Nature Day 1)

And you know that Drake does too!  Welcome to Kayserberg :

Home sweet home

Geoff spent his April engrossed in a challenge.  King’s Cross?  Well, he might be!

X is for Crosses#atozchallenge

I don’t often think of hill climbing and Jude in the same sentence, but… she did it!

Conquering Godolphin Hill

Thanks a lot for your company, and for your friendship.  I know that this was a very low key walk, but I wanted to share a little more than just a pair of boots.  In the coming weeks I hope to give you a flavour of Poland, seen through my eyes.  Take good care, and enjoy your walking!

I almost forgot my good friends over at Monday Escapes.  Maybe something for the Bank Holiday weekend?