Return to Krakow – May 24 & 25

Friday was a restful day, well probably not for Marek who was driving and trying to listen to the very strange directions from the GPS – somehow most right turns were “bear right.” Unfortunately “bear right” also meant just that – it was so difficult to tell when there was a turn to be made. Not as bad as the day in Iassi last summer when she had us driving round and round in circles in a parking lot that definitely was not made for the Euro-Van.

We started the day in the archives in Rzeszow looking to acquire cadastral maps. Although we got the ones of most immediate concern we will return there next week and get the rest of the ones we need. These maps are extremely important – they are from 1851 and 1854 and have either lot numbers (for taxes) or house numbers. Records often include the house numbers for births, marriages and deaths, and with these maps, we can pinpoint a house and even see if it is still standing!  We found one in Vilkeya, Lithuania last summer, and one just last week in Widaczów that we identified on the map.

Last Sunday, when we were at the morning mass, children were receiving their first communion and from those on the streets now, it looks like many are preparing for the same celebration.IMG_20190525_105832


Up until now, on this trip, we’ve been researching Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic families, and although they lived in places with large Jewish populations, I’ve been able to have more emotional distance than I can maintain when I am researching Jewish families. After all, the Jewish population here,  in towns where Jews sometimes comprised more than 50% of the population, is now close to zero. Krakow is the exception. Tomorrow, Sunday, I hope to be back in Kazimierz at some point, perhaps listening to klezmer music, helping to bridge the gap between a city whose streets I can walk on freely, and Auschwitz where we will be on Monday. Somehow, I have avoided going to any of the camps. Walking on the blood spattered streets of Ukraine was enough for me. On Monday I will confront the remnants of the horrors of all of humanity’s nightmares. The only consolation is that I will be able to stand there – living proof that the deranged actions in the twentieth century didn’t succeed.

Sunday we will be visiting a famous Polish site – the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It’s less than a half hour drive from Krakow.

Walking the streets of Krakow is very interesting. It’s where the past and present meet, sometimes smoothly and sometimes abruptly. The streets and buildings are ancient and of course, most of the people are just going about their usual daily business of working or playing. But these streets were probably very crowded with pilgrims, merchants and the people who lived in the city. Even though the people in the streets are modern, with very little imagination, I can picture the streets and the people as they might have been.

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