A journey


Kamizierz on a bitter January morning, few people or tourists and i’m here on Ulica Szeroca the heart of Jewish Krakow, “well, perhaps once”.

The Old Synagogue, a museum, seventy year old fragments of the past, an exhibition , faces, donated photographs , each with it’s own tragic story, giving me something to grasp, amongst the impossible statistics.

And the tiny Rumuh Synagogue, where services are still attempted, “the only place in the city”. An outsized blue snow shovel,lies propped against the plaques, eighty eight members of one family murdered by the Nazi’s” I walk on until i reach the bridge over the Wisla uncertain of my bearings, so many made this trip, cart and suitcase laden, the Jewish community moving South into the ghetto, and the inhabitants from the ghetto area North into now hurriedly vacated Kamizierz.

So this is Podgorze, a fantastical red brick structure, towers In front of me, St Joseph’s Church, almost Disney like, sitting in the snow, and Roman Polanski , hails from here somewhere. “another time”.

Plac Bohaterow Getta (Square of the Ghetto Heroes). And an installation of seventy chairs spread across the small square, a moving tribute for when the ghetto was liquidated in March 1943, “the locals use some of them while waiting for a tram”. And the old pharmacy , on the corner ,is now a small museum, more photo’s of these people’s tortuous descent.

Trudging on, it’s freezing ,” what did i expect in January” decayed, tattered buildings not yet prettified, circa WW11, a couple of antique shops, the wares parked outside , could have been salvaged from the Ghetto square yesterday, as the frightened, bewildered , survivors were herded into trucks.

A main road ,Wielicka, maybe i’m lost,”again” a couple of kilometres, “yea lost”. But then a side road and a sign, “Dear Visitors! You Are Entering The Site Of the Former Concentration Camp “Plazcow” Please Respect The Grevious History Of The Site”.

No-one here save me and a young mother pushing a toddler on a sledge, and very little remains as the Nazi’s obliterated the camp itself.

But the grey forbidding Gestapo house still overlooks the site, now sporting a satellite dish, and Amon Goeth’s infamous residence, down at heel.

I follow Abrahama the former road through the camp, now no more than snow tracks. A cave , old workings , the place has been designated a nature reserve, but also has become a refuge for the down and outs of Krakow, a cursory look inside, needles,bottles ,trash. Outside the blanket of white covers the litter , a Christmas card, on and up to the Memorial, on a small plateau, overlooking Krakow.

Bleak but now beautiful, and as the 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day, I shiver my prayer.

How did anyone survive?, wrapped up as i am, nearly hypothermic, finding some steps down to the main road.

McDonalds, incongruous , sacrilegious even, given the proximity. But coffee, I must admit I’m grateful.

N Board

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