Looking back, I think I should have taken more photos over the past few weeks and that I should have recorded more conversations than I did, but then again, nothing is perfect and recording real life changes the way that real life pans out and the way that it manifests later on, at least in my opinion. I’m going to comfort myself by telling myself that if I stuck a camera and a recorder into everyone’s face they wouldn’t have been as open with me. I’m also going to tell myself that I’ll see all of the people I met in and around Krakow again. I also wish I had attended more Shabbas dinners, but alas, I, of course, caught a cold mid-festival.
The Jewish Culture Festival is over and I have few photos to show for it, though I can honestly tell you that I had a great time–I attended my first Cantor concert with my aunt, or, more accurately, my dad’s cousin who I call ciocia, an amazing woman who made me strawberry perogies, my favourite kremowki, and matzo ball soup, among many other concerts and lectures I attended.
My mind is still trying to wrap itself around the strange and wonderful world that is the Jewish Renaissance (or the Jewaissance) in Krakow–a place where non-Jewish Poles volunteer their time at the JCC and Children of the Holocaust are members of the Senior’s club and professors from all over come to study and take part of what is happening around them and historical relics are for sale in the market stalls of the Nowy Plac. A place where young Jews are “coming out of the closet”, a place that is open and welcoming, a place where you won’t have anyone telling you that you’re “Jewish on the wrong side” if your mother isn’t Jewish.
During this time I was also able to find my great-grandfather’s grave. My naive philosophy mentioned in the last post–the idea that my intuition would guide me to this grave–taught me an important lesson. The lesson was that I shouldn’t be too stubborn or too nervous to simply ask someone who knows better than I do. I finally asked my great-uncle about the grave and his instructions lead me straight to it. I felt both victorious and sad. I had found a grave that most of my living family members had never seen but had grown up and always lived within 100 kilometres of, yet for some reason were never drawn to find it. My great-grandfather’s grandchildren don’t know where he is buried and had never visited his grave. I’m not writing this to point fingers or to pat myself on the back–I’ve also learned this week that this is common in Poland, common of the second post-Holocaust generation. The interest was never introduced by my grandmother’s generation, such interests were suppressed. The spot in his grave made for flowers grew weeds and the writing on the tombstone was illegible other than his name.
Last Tuesday I put one of my crazy little plans into action. My plan was to buy a large piece of white paper and come crayons or some charcoal and to try and trace or shade over the lettering on the tombstone to be able to figure out what it said. Over the past few weeks I have been so disconnected with the reality of what I’ve been doing, or maybe everything has been so surreal, that I keep on imagining ideas like these panning out in much different ways than they have. For example, I thought that on Tuesday it would be a great idea to wear a white dress to shade a tombstone with charcoal, I also thought it would be a great thing to do with my boyfriend on his first day in Krakow. What’s more, I thought that it would work and that I would roll up the paper and bring it back to Canada and happily roll it out in front of my father and present it to him as a gift.
Needless to say, it didn’t work out. Everything that a rational person would see going wrong in that situation, like getting my white dress dirty, went wrong. However, I did clean the grave with my shoe a bit and I pulled out all of the weeds from the flowerbed but didn’t have the time to come back to plant flowers in it. I am now in Warsaw feeling like I have unfinished business in Krakow.