Warszawa 6/01

Being in Poland has been the experience of a lifetime, everyday filled with new adventures that are hard to put into words, but today really hit it home to me. We began our day by riding the tram system to the Old Town of Warszawa. We were informed yesterday that the Old Town was completely destroyed during the Warszawa uprising, but after World War II, they rebuilt it exactly how it was before, and with various bricks from around Poland. I thought this was very interesting and it really showed how much the Polish people cared about the history of this part of town and bringing it back to its glory as it was before the war.

We sat on benches and admired the beauty of the Old Town, while waiting for our tour guide whom was going to show us the Presidential Palace. While sitting down and observing, I noticed these huge posters that depicted famous American figures like Herbert Hoover, and Woodrow Wilson. I found this to be very interesting, because it showed that Polish people really have interests in America. We were greeted and finally made it into the Presidential palace which was a sight to see. When we first entered, we saw the round table where political figures sat in 1989 and discussed plans for a New Poland after the collapse of communism and the regaining of Polish freedom. They kept the round table as it was during those meetings, and they even had names of the individuals who sat in the seats during those meetings. We then proceeded into the palace itself and saw various flags that all said something about Polish history. For example we say a flag that said Solidarity on it which was the movement that broke up communism. Our guide then took us through various different rooms where we saw paintings that were worth some crazy amounts of money, the presidential chapel etc. One thing that really stuck with me that our guide repeated over and over again is “Everything in this palace has a meaning.”

After a wonderful tour, we got to the very special part in our day, meeting a Righteous Among the Nations Irena Senderska-Rzonca. Her story has really stayed with me, because it was so moving and beautiful. We all sat in a circle and listened as she told us her story about how she helped Jewish people and particularly one family during World War II in present day Ukraine. She told us how she would sneak into the Ghettos under the wall and give packets of medicine etc, she and her brother traveled to help save a Jewish baby, and along with her family, let a Jewish family live in their home attic for 8 months. She was the one who brought them food, emptied waste etc. I can only imagine how scared her and her family must of been, but they still put others before themselves and risked their lives to save this family. Irena Senderska-Ronca message at the end of her talk had the most impact on me though, and I could say the same for my fellow classmates as most of us were in tears. She said her father used to always say “If someone is crying, it means something is wrong. Happy people do not cry that often.” I felt very moved by this statement and I could really tell that she took it to heart, and still lives by it today. Even in her age of almost 90 years old, she still continues to help out the elderly in any way that she can. She told us to dance and sing whenever we wanted to, be with our friends if they cry, and help spread equality. She couldn’t stress enough how important equality was and if everybody were to be good to one another, the world would be a better place.

Overall, I cannot put into words how much this experience has impacted me, and I know that this will stay with me forever. Her presence in the room was so humbling, and I could really tell that she was passionate about helping others. Irena Senderska-Rzonca was a beautiful human inside and out. Into the more academic side of things, I could really tell that Poland cares about their Righteous Among the Nations as 6,800 were given this distinguished title. One could even say that this gives Polish people something to identify with. While in the palace as I mentioned above, we saw the flags, the round table and many other things that had to do with Polish history. I could tell that these various different artifacts were important to Poland and they may use these as symbols as a part of their nationalism.

-Gabi Hancock

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