Before I left for Poland, I made a pledge that despite what I learned, I wanted to feel positive about Poland, to embrace the future of the current generation and to connect to the Poland my grandparents knew before the war. I wanted to understand why they loved their Krakow and Warsaw. I’m trying hard to not just feel the dark days of Poland, but, it’s hard, it’s so hard.
Warsaw is a work of art in a land of engineers. It oozes with all of the culture and history of a Rome or a Lisbon, but without the joyful chaos of the Italians, or the melancholy of Portugal. There are few remnants of the expected Communist gray, and everything just works. The inner city is a stunning re-creation of all that was bulldozed and blasted flat by the Nazis, and though it is only 40 years young, its narrow streets and squares filled with cafes and musicians and promenaders, carry themselves with 400-year-old dignity, right down to the recovered cobblestones and the artful cracks in the old/new building walls. And when you want to get somewhere, there is always an ultra-modern, ultra-simple bus or tram or train just around the corner. – Peter
Ala took piano lessons at the Chopin school in Warsaw and played the piano well. Every Friday evening she would go to the Symphony with her father Eliash. Theatre was also a regular form of entertainment. Their home was a revolving door to friends and Eliash’s business customers, and most days of the week there were guests for dinner. At 17 Ala met her husband-to-be Mieczyslaw “Mietek” on a cruise ship, and she fell in love with him after their first dance. Mietek was a romantic and their courtship and marriage prior to the outbreak of war was full of love and laughter, even with the ever increasing tension of anti-Semitism and talk of war.
September 1st 1939.
Germans. Planes. Destruction. Invasion
Zdislaw battles in the army defending Warsaw.
No water, electricity, or gas
Blood on the cobblestones
19th September, Soviet armies attack from the east. The German Army march into Warsaw, 3rd of October, 1939.
1940 Warsaw Ghetto wall built.
Thirty percent of the city's population are forced to live in 2.4 percent of the area of the city. Many in our family are trapped in the ghetto.
There’s a baby coming.
A child of war.
Irena wants to have the child with her parents in the Ghetto.
There's a treacherous voyage to Warsaw
Zdislaw smuggles Irene into the ghetto through a hole in Leszno street.
June 17 1942.
Joasia is born on the kitchen table at No.11 Orla Street, home of Eliash and Dworjra.
|Orla Street after the Warsaw Uprising|
(Photo credit: Ghetto Fighters House Archives)
| Jews in the ghetto dying every day of starvation - 1943|
( Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images)