Reflections from Sam Scherer & Reily Boss…
Sam: Here we finally are, about to board the plane to Israel. This week has been a roller coaster of emotions, filled with laughing, crying, cheering and hugging. We have learned so much about the tragic Jewish history in the Holocaust. I didn’t expect to cry myself, but managed to break down today while looking at the letters from my family which have flown thousands of miles for me to see them. Tomorrow we wake up in Israel, the land of milk and honey, where we will learn so much more about our heritage while becoming so much closer on the journey.
-Sam Scherer, Lakota West Hs
To start off the day, we traveled to a forest called Zblitowska Gora. Never would I have believed a beautiful forest, such as this one, was a previously horrible place. If it wasn’t for Peppi, our tour guide, I wouldn’t even begin to imagine the horrific scenes that took place here. We visited the ditches where the Jewish people were murdered into ditches. The one that really spoke to me was the first ditch we walked up to. 800 children murdered by hand grenades, bayonets and bullets lied there. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how the Nazis could do this to such innocent people, my people, our people. After taking a moment for ourselves to comprehend what we were standing in front of, Peppi shared some stories of survivors. One woman, by the name of Rivka Yosselewska, witnessed the deaths of all her family members with her that day, including her own baby who was ripped from her hands and thrown into the pit. She survived that inconceivable experience by crawling out of those pits after the Germans left for they did not know the bullet they shot at her had only grazed her head. Bodies and bodies had fallen on top of her yet she still managed to make her way out. Another woman, who has remained unnamed, wrote a beautiful, sorrowful letter to her daughter who she had to give up to someone else in order to save her daughter’s life. The letter spurred so much sadness inside of me, because I luckily have the chance to grow up with my real mother, when this little girl didn’t. I can’t even imagine not having my mother in my life. Throughout my entire life, she has taught me so many lessons and loved me unconditionally. My appreciation and gratefulness towards her has reached a new level. Everyone needs a mom no matter who you are…
I really realized this when we received letters from our families on the bus after the forest. Once my letter was handed to me I immediately started crying. We all didn’t know who the letters were from, but I can recognize the handwriting that wrote my name anywhere, it was my mom’s. I opened up the letter with such joy and happiness for I haven’t seen my family in a week and I miss them very much. Opening that letter made me the most emotional I had ever been on this trip so far. Everything has been building up inside of me and it was all released at that moment. This trip has really opened my eyes and helped me realized how lucky I am to have them.
Eventually, my tears dried up and my spirits were lifted again as we went to the Jewish Quarter in Kraków to visit many old synagogues. They dated as far back as the 1600s, and some are still functioning today. The architecture of the buildings were absolutely stunning. Many were very tall and prominent in the streets. Inside, some had prayers written all over the walls. The prayers were used as decorations, but also for those who did not have enough money for a prayer book. Other synagogues had church like features (like stained glass windows and an organ although it was never played) really intrigued me. This intrigued me, because I am half Christian and it was interesting to see the Christianity influence on these historic Jewish synagogues.
After a day of emotional highs and lows, we were able to release our tensions through shopping and eating at Old Town in Kraków. Going through a week of the same food over and over again, I needed something I could end my time in Poland with a bang. Searching all over the town, I ended up at Hard Rock Cafe with some other people from our delegation. Feeling good from divulging on American-related food, we headed to the market place in the middle of the square. Many trinkets and t-shirts were being sold there and my group and I got some good stuff! With our full stomachs and goodies we headed back to the bus to end our very last day in Poland. Now we begin our new chapter in our trip at the Polish airport where we leave for Israel. In Poland I learned more stories about Jewish survivors in one week than I could ever have during all my years in school. Peppi taught us the significance of every historical holocaust building, monument, museum, building, etc. I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity to experience a trip like this which I will never forget. Like how I will never forget the holocaust. Am Yisrael Chai.
-Reily Boss, Wyoming HS
During our journey, we’re sharing a few highlight photos per day in our daily blog, yet to see ALL of our photos (many per day), go to our shared album here. https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0SJqstnBJ10BQS