Blogging our way through Eastern Europe
Thursday, April 19, 2018--day 9
Hello everyone! I was gonna spend this time writing in my journal, but hey, I can just copy this post in later! Hitting two birds with one stone!
We got up around 7:30 cuz both my roommate and I slept through our alarms. Breakfast was really good and I'm kinda disappointed I didn't have more pancakes.
With regard to the more interesting parts of the day, we went to a total of 3 MUSEUMS today! It seems like a lot but it was a lot of fun! First of all, today is April 19th, the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising! (A brief history lesson in case you need it: a Nazi officer wanted to give Hitler a wonderful gift for his birthday, which is April 20th. He decided that completely clearing out the Warsaw Ghetto would be the perfect gift. Long story short, he failed thanks to the Jewish Youths getting together to fight against one of the strongest armies in the world. Knowing the end was near, they wanted to die in honor, so they picked up their arms and fought. Even though they were eventually crushed, their names are remembered in history as great Jewish revolutionaries and they represent the strength of the community.) It was even more special because today actually marks the 75th anniversary.
We visited the POLIN Museum for the History of the Polish Jews, which was my personal favorite of all the ones we visited today. We were a bit time crunched because we wanted to make it to the big ceremony outside for the anniversary, but I couldn't help getting sucked into the museum. I recommend this museum to everyone. It was absolutely incredible. It was both interactive and educational. The way the exhibits were set up in terms of decoration made you feel like you were actually in that time period! My friend and I had to sadly rush the last couple rooms with Mr. Gavin, but we came back after lunch to finish. Before lunch, we went out to see the huge commemoration to the Uprising's 75th anniversary. We got to see the Polish president and 2 other dignitaries speak! It was really cool because at noon, a bunch of church bells and horns went off at the same time. After that, we had lunch and went back to explore the rest of the museum.
After that, we walked to another museum. It was called Zydowski Instytut Historyczny and they had letters and art from the Warsaw Ghetto that were buried underground to be dug up in the future. The Jewish community wanted to make sure that if they were all wiped out (which they were), they would have hopes of being remembered. I came across a couple journal entries that reminded me of my own, which really got me interested. Maybe I'll be world famous someday with my journal published in a museum. ;) They also had a beautiful synagogue. We got some free time after, so my friends and I got drinks. I got the cutest picture with the famous Ms. Freeman, who now calls me Jeanine (long story). [Editorial comment from Ms. Freeman: NOT TRUE!]
Our last stop was the Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego. It was also very interactive and I had a lot of fun going through it. We went through a sewer maze, which was a lot of fun, and our group got yelled at for playing on toy horses. Apparently, we were too big and they were meant for kids. Oops. I got lost a bunch in there. It was huge and it doesn't help that all the directions were in Polish.
For dinner, I had a great time getting to know all my new friends. I was initially nervous about finding people to hang out with, but I've made a lot of great friends across this past week. I had to be very cautious today though because EVERYONE was getting sick. I did not want to catch whatever was going around, and it was bad! Overall, I'm really enjoying my trip and I can't wait to see the Czech Republic tomorrow!
P.S. Shout out to my dad because his birthday is tomorrow! I love you so much and I'm sorry I missed your birthday for this trip. Ironically, it is the same day as Hitler's birthday... lol whoops
Warsaw, Poland. Known to the locals as Warsawa. I woke up relatively rejuvenated this morning with a semi-late wake up call of 7:30am. We had plenty of time to eat breakfast since the bus was not leaving until 9:20. So, per usual, I decide to get breakfast ASAP, at 8 on the dot. Ricky had the bright idea of bringing his chess board down to breakfast that he finagled at the central market in Kraków. Unfortunately he forgot to buy some skills with that chess set because he lost to both Abdul and me :).
Ending on a positive note we set off to the Polin Museum. At the Polin Museum, we got to see a gigantic exhibit that showed the chronology of Polish Jews over the centuries. The museum reminded me a bit of the Smithsonian exhibits except to be honest they were way more interesting to look at and the interactive parts were cooler. The pre-war stuff was really interesting but personally I found myself drawn to the inter-war section and the parts that detailed the events of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. One thing I thought was really interesting was a video that they projected in the post-war era with each concentration camp being liberated and video footage showing documentation from different Allied troops, depending on whether the camp was in Eastern or Western Europe. The lunch was meh but watching the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Uprising was cool. I don’t think a lot of people could say they got to see the Polish president speak, although his speech was very propaganda-esque. Shoutout to the snipers on the roof. They live music was dope though and it was cool seeing the soldiers do their little rifle ceremony before the president spoke. All Polish politics aside, we headed off to the next museum, the Jewish memorial museum.
The Jewish memorial museum was relatively small but I thought it had interesting exhibits. I thought the drawers with the names of victims in the ghetto was neat because the first drawer would tell us who the people were, what their occupation was, etc. but the next drawer would detail their fate under Nazi occupation. I thought that was powerful in making the victims even more relatable, especially given that some of these victims were young people who bore arms against the Nazis in the Uprising. That museum was a nice stop before the last museum we went to which I thought was amazing.
The last museum we went to was the Warsaw Rising museum. The museum exhibited the Polish resistance to Nazi invasion as well as the Sovietization of the Polish military. It seemed like some people thought the museum was really cool and interesting while others thought it was boring. Some were having fun fantasizing in the bunkers and checking out the cool WWII era weapons while others were detached and bored from the whole thing. I thought it was intriguing and the memorial outside was also quite surreal.
Ending the night with dinner is usually always the fun part. We trekked all the way to the Arkadia mall, about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. The American in us led us to a burger place called BlackBurger. Honestly the burgers I’ve had in Europe have easily outshined any burgers I’ve had in America. Going to the mall was in and of itself cool because you could find your classic stores that you’d see in any American mall but with cheaper or sometimes more expensive prices. Before this trip I couldn’t even imagine myself being in a mall in Europe, let alone Warsaw, Poland. Definitely an experience.
After a long day of going to museums, eating burgers, and Polish shopping, we come back to the hotel to wind down and get ready for a big flying day tomorrow. Unfortunately, we couldn’t host a chess tournament tonight because of the early wake up call. Guess I’ll have to beat your another time Mr. Gavin.
Best Regards from Poland,
Today, we got to wake up at a relatively decent time. We headed off to the Polin Museum, which concentrated a lot Jewish culture in Europe as well as Christianity. The Museum contained many interesting pieces of art work and was interactive.
Outside of the museum, an annual Celebration for the Warsaw Uprising was taking place—so we spent some time there. Though we did not get a chance to see the choir and orchestra that we saw rehearsing on Wednesday afternoon, we did get to see the President of the Republic of Poland (Andrzej Duda)! I’m not sure if his speech got lost in translation, but I would not have him speak at my graduation.
Next, we went to a museum that contained documents from WWII— mainly letters to families and numbers of people sent to camps. In the top of this museum, there was a synagogue. There was a recording of the Jewish prayer “Shema”, and Aaron later explained its meaning. This was the same prayer that he led for us at Majdanek, which was one of the most touching parts of the trip for me so far.
Later, we went to the museum about resistance during the Holocaust. Though the museum contained a lot of information, I found it a bit difficult to navigate— especially timeline wise. However, there was one simulation that was a video of Warsaw 1944 which gave me a different insight as to what the area was like— totally destroyed.
Though the day wasn’t one of the most eventful here in Eastern Europe, it was still a good day. We were able to see a lot of the city. We had time at the end of the day to grab dinner and explore a bit, which is always appreciated.
Wake up at 5:30 tomorrow!!!!! Yay!
From our hotel breakfast this morning I already knew it was going to be a relatively lighthearted day. I think this was the best we’ve had yet, they provided us with an assortment of fresh fruit, fluffy pancakes, and crispy bacon. We took a bus to the POLIN museum where we spent time walking through labyrinths of a building partially curated by a MassArt alum! At midday we took a break to step outside and watch Poland’s president deliver a speech honoring victims and survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on its 75th anniversary. Left and right, all around masses of people were wearing daffodils, it was a beautiful sight.
We later returned to the museum. Next stop was a museum with a synagogue, and the last museum was an interactive look at the Warsaw ghetto uprising. We were all a little bit tired today, but we were able to let loose, run through the tunnels modeled after sewers used as hide outs during the uprising, and sat down in the sun for lunch.
Personally, I really have appreciated how much closer this trip has brought me with juniors and seniors alike that I’ve never before spoken to. We had deep and meaningful conversations about the survivor testimonials at the synagogue, ate dinner together, and walked around the mall. I’m both sad to be leaving Poland in the morning, but also excited for our adventures in the Czech Republic to come.
left: part of the daffodils left in front of the POLIN Museum, as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (photo: Jasmine)
middle: the handpainted ceiling of the rebuilt synagogue from Gwoździec, Poland, housed today in the POLIN Museum and painted by teachers and students from Mass Art in Boston! (photo: Jasmine)
right: Jasmine with Ms. Freeman (photo: Jasmine's phone!)
Thank you Jasmine for your BD wishes. I love you too. Thank you for sharing your day with us. All of you have done a great jobs in writing and keeping us informed of your trips. Hope that everyone get well and enjoy the rest of the trip.
Peter Kelly BLSA
Thanks, everyone, for keeping us updated on your travels, your learnings and your discoveries. Your posts are helping the rest of us live your journey as well as those of the meaningful lives of people lost to atrocities. Though many of the stories are sad, you're doing a great job illuminating hopefulness and reminding us of why we must never forget. Stay safe, well and eyes and ears wide opened. Peter Kelly
Glad to hear about the brave people who fought back despite impossible odds.
Jasmine, Damon, Jehan and Lauren, thank you all so much for your wonderful posts! It's great that all of you were able to "sleep in" a little bit since it had to take a lot of energy to visit three museums. And it is very cool that you guys were there to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Carmen Calderon O'Hara
Thank you all for your posts. I am learning so much through your narratives. What a special experience and a special way to honor all the lives lost. Keep them coming.
Love seeing your photos Jasmine. Great job documenting this trip - you will remember if for the rest of your lives. Please tell Ms. Foley I say hello :)
What a life changing trip you all have made and how fortunate you are to have experienced it. I have enjoyed all the blogs and views of each day seeing it through the eyes of each of you. We welcome you home tomorrow. I am sure it will take days if not years to process all that you have seen.
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