Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Krah-koove, maybe



For a long time, I've wanted to go to Poland, specifically to Krakow (correct pronunciation: Krah-koove). It's kind of a long story why. The short version is, it would be a roots trip, to reconnect with the landscape of some of my ancestors, specifically the ones who died in the Holocaust. My ancestors' shtetl was about fifty kilometers east of Krakow, close to Lvov, now a part of Ukraine.

There's nothing left of the shtetl except a railroad crossing, so, not much to see which is probably the reason I could not inspire in my siblings much enthusiasm about a journey to that now barren place. My brother said, "OK. Well, we could go to Ukraine ... or ... we could go swim with the whales in Maui." Put that way, I really got it, that my sibs (at least my brother) preferred to celebrate life rather than experience the landscape of the lost world of old Jewish eastern Europe.

My brother DID swim with the whales in Maui. From the pics and stories it looks like it was a great trip. L'chaim, Josh! Eventually, I put aside my hopes and dreams to connect with that land. There's no way I would go alone, no way. That was a few years ago.

Last night a dear friend told me she's planning to visit Poland sometime next year. As she regaled me with stories of past visits, my interest and enthusiasm for this journey returned. Last night in my dreams the ancestors showed up in force. When I think about going, I experience so many potent emotions, so much energy runs through me. There's no way to describe how I feel when I imagine putting my feet on the ground of eastern Poland, especially Krakow.

What good does it do to visit the old country? Why not choose instead to swim with the whales in Maui? What am I hoping to gain from such a journey? And how the heck can I afford to go? These are interesting questions I'm going to be thinking about today and for the next little while.

I'm kind of in awe this morning. You never know what's going to come up, you never know what will happen next. All I can say is: wow.

24 comments:

Reya Mellicker said...

Though my friend and I have no interest in visiting the concentration camps on the maybe 2011 visit to Poland, she has been to Auschwitz. Here's how she described her visit to that awful place:

"Threw up on the way in, threw up on the way out."

Oh yeah!

glnroz said...

heck, i "Wow" everytime I get the chance to "click" by.. thnx

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Glenn!!

Angela said...

Could you visit me on the way? I`ll teach you some Polish (or do you know some?) and feed you cake before you reach your ancestors´ ground. I am sure that around that railroad crossing you will find much more than other people can see.
And no matter what your brother says, even the Poland of today (and Krakow in particular) is a place worth visiting!
Go, girl!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Angela! My friend is Polish and fluent in the language. I often try to get her to teach me Polish drinking songs. Dang man they are so depressing! Fun to try to learn though.

Tess Kincaid said...

I've been to Warsaw, before the wall came down, and it is an experience I will never forget. It was like walking into an old black and white movie. WT visited Auschwitz. It was so chilling, he doesn't like to speak of it.

Linda Sue said...

Reya GO to Poland- the feel of the land- the nature there- it will stir something that whales can not stir. You do not need to revisit the horror just the heart- your dna will quiver with a sense of being loved deeply. Bet you a nickel!

jeanette from everton terrace said...

My close friend and Friday Night card playing buddy is from Poland and her family lives in Krakow. I was lucky enough to visit with her. She was going home for a baptism and asked if I wanted to go, I had never really considered going to Poland but couldn't think of reason not to. It was a wonderful trip. Yes, visited Auschwitz and I'm glad I did, your friends description is about right. Also saw the most amazing salt mine, put it on your list, seriously. I learned how to say hello, thank you and no that costs too much while I was there - all helpful!

Kerry said...

I really hope you get the chance to travel to Poland; this seems like the perfect opportunity. Imagine the ghosts you will meet, the things you will see!

Reya Mellicker said...

Linda Sue YES, the heart not the horror. And yes, learning to say, that costs too much seems like a great idea.

Thanks for all the encouragement!

Barbara said...

We are going on a Temple Micah trip (with Danny) in the spring that will include both Poland and Israel. It will be my first visit to Poland. I'm expecting to feel the remnants of WWII even as Poland is reborn. I'm sure we will visit Auschwitz, a definite part of the Jewish story in Poland. Going on to Israel will feel like entering the Promised Land from another direction.

Reya Mellicker said...

Barbara, Danny the rabbi was in my dream last night, scolding me for not knowing how to petition God correctly. He embarrassed me in front of the whole congregation since I was up on the Bima, supposedly leading the prayer. It was like one of those dreams in which you have to take the final but never studied the material. Kind of funny, actually.

Barbara said...

In actuality, Danny only scolds people for chewing gum during services or arriving late. He's pretty much open to any approach to God! I would love to see you on the TM Bima. I'm sure you would have a captivated audience!

Nancy said...

It sounds like a trip that will materialize because it's something you need to do. As for swimming with the whales in Maui - anytime you want to go, let me know!

Reya Mellicker said...

Barbara, it was a dream!!

Nancy I'm kind of scared of whales, but my brother really loved the experience. Hope you have all recovered from the flu!

Amanda said...

wow reya. this really resonated with me.

i just returned from greece, where i had planned to visit ithaka, an island i have worked on as an archaeologist and have been returning to for over 20 years. mid-trip, i decided not to visit ithaka this time round - and my sister said something similar to me that echoed with your brother's focus on celebrating life instead of experiencing a lost world.

there is beauty in both, but the timing must be right. shalom to you and may your decision on taking this journey sit well with your heart.

Paul C said...

The dappled clouds and shadows are amazing shots... A trip to connect with such a pivotal moment in your family history must carry mixed feelings indeed.

Reya Mellicker said...

Indeed

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

One thing about not being Jewish but being of mixed European nationalities is the lack of intensity is visiting the mother land. I am such a mixed mess (English, Welsh, German, and whatever else) that I have felt no draw to visit the land of ancestors although I do get the travel bug & love most of eastern & western Europe. I think I'm missing something... a lot!
The dappled clouds are amazing!!!

steven said...

reya that's a wickedfine photo - like the tree's spittin' clouds!!! this is a biggy you drop here . . . big , in a heap of good hardcore biggies you drop on a regular basis! i've got places i'd go back to but the terms would be different than the terms my history needs. see i want to set a new history for the dna i'm carrying. i can do that by going home - which for me is england - and riding on a bicycle through the hard and soft of the northern counties and riding in and out of the dales. or i can ride here in canada and carry on bringing goodness into the world. either way i'm set on some sort of recalibration. just thinking out loud. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

THanks, Steven. I'm wondering about all these same things.

Lizzy one positive outcome of the Holocaust is that the Nazis were so weird, they kept careful track of everyone. If they hadn't, I would never have been able to find the location of Wyzgordek, my family's shtetl.

Karen said...

Okay, so you're the third person to "talk" to me today about Poland. ????????

Wow, that would be an amazing trip; I hope you get to go. I could see you connecting with the spirit of the land there... It's good to think about...

Jo said...

Reya, Andrea went to Poland a few years ago with her university ballet company. Although she was honored to perform on the stages of the five national opera houses there, she said by far her most meaningful experience was visiting Auschwitz, and also the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I'll have to tell you ALL about it one of these days. (She may just be as sentient as you.)

Reya Mellicker said...

DEFINITELY will see the salt mine.
DEFINITELY will NOT go to Auschwitz.

Would love to hear more about her experience.