Today I am packing and preparing for a diverse travel and research experience in two countries that share so much history and yet retained very distinct cultures, languages and much more. I’ll be landing in Warsaw and spending a week doing things that I didn’t have time to do last year during the IAJGS conference – visiting archives, museums and exploring the city. The first time I remember learning anything about Warsaw more than just a cursory mention of the city’s name was in Junior High School back in the dark ages when there were still Junior High Schools – I think it was in 7th grade that we read Uris’ book, Mila 18. As in so many other places I travel in Eastern Europe, echoes and shadows of the Shoah follow in my tracks. The history of what happened in these places is never far from my thoughts. However, these places are, I admit, so much more than those echoing tears and screams. Reconstruction and restoration has not erased them. I don’t know the words to use that are proper here but I will say that the Jewish presence is very obvious whether in the various monuments, historical markers or even in conversation about the people who were.
Last year as I traveled through Warsaw, Kaunas, Vilnius, recording my thoughts in photos and words, some of which were reflected in the blog posts I wrote on this site, everything was new for me, and I’m sure there was a lot I didn’t register. This year, as I revisit the archives in Lithuania, as I ride and walk through some of the same towns and streets I visited last year, I wonder what kind of impressions I will take away.
After week in Warsaw, I’ll be in Lithuania for two weeks. Last year I faced our trip with a great deal of trepidation, this year I am eager to learn more, see more, and remember and reflect not only what happened, but what is today, what is in the here and now.