Within the past week of our trip, we’ve had the privilege and honor to learn from a number of academics, colleagues of our professors, and even a Righteous among the Nations. To meet these people and to have the opportunity to learn from them has been one of the best aspects of our field study, and I’m deeply appreciative of the time each of them has dedicated to our group.
In Łódź we had the opportunity to meet Professor Durys, who taughts us about the way that different cultural products have been interpreted by the major political parties of Poland. It was really interesting to see how the different historical narratives of the country can affect the way that different films are interpreted, and how those interpretations affect viewers in turn.
Then, in Warsaw, we met Professor Bilewicz, a psychologist who taught us about in-group/out-group dynamics as well as the mechanics of prejudice. This was impactful, I think especially because many of the concepts related to prejudice that he mentioned were relevant not only to what we’ve learned in the past few weeks about Poland but also about our situation in the contemporary United States. While the information proved important, relevant, and accessible, it was also slightly concerning to realize just how many processes associated with prejudice or potential harm exist in everyday life.
Later in Warsaw we met with Professor Obirek, who gave us a historical view of Poland and the ideologies of Poland today, occasionally tying in the relationship of the Catholic church in Polish with the development of political narratives. Professor Obirek demonstrated an honest interest in our group and our field study, coming to our hotel specifically to meet with us.
Finally, in Poland’s presidential palace we were given the opportunity to meet one of the Righteous among Nations, Pani Irena. She shared with us her stories of bravery in the face of terror in order to save others. She encouraged equality and told us to be sure to do everything we could to help others. She also told us that among the young people in our generation, she sees both good and bad, meaning that we have the potential to reach out and help people in order to better the world.