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"To Bring Memory Back" edition 2005-2006

WLODAWA - Public Middle School No 2


Who are we

WLODAWA - Public Middle School No 2

What we do in the project

Students from Public Middle School nr 2 in Wlodawa (class IIa) have been collecting knowledge, documents and people’s stories about tradition, religion and culture of Wlodawa Jews for more than a year. Wlodawa is a unique town, because in the pre-war times approximately 75% of local people were Jewish. Moreover The Nazi Death Camp in Sobibor is situated near Wlodawa. Nowadays there are no Jews here, but their material heritage remained - well maintained synagogue complex, wooden architecture of the town and industrial plants. These days descendants of Wlodawa Jews come to take part in annual Festival of Three Cultures.
Students of IIa class participated as volunteers in 8th edition of the Festival (16-18.XII.2005).

Below you can read their own impressions:
“As a volunteer I was happy to take part in such important thing as a reconciliation of three different cultures.”

“At the Festival I was a volunteer – I was serving traditional and tasty dishes like borsch, kutya, latkes, jelly, hallah bread. There were many attractions connected with Jewish tradition, for example Chanukah dreidel game for kids and Jewish paper cutting. Furthermore two famous Polish actors Wiktor Zborowski and Marian Opania presented “The Shmontses” recital and The Klezzmates – well-known klezmer band from Cracow gave a concert. Also the local cinema joined The Festival showing films “Life is beautiful” and “Divided we fall”. Judaica from Wlodawa were on exhibition at the City Gallery and you could buy some souvenirs at the local bazaar.”

„During The Festival I was a volunteer and I spent whole day in the area around the Synagogue. This place is exceptional. It evokes so many emotions and makes it possible to feel how it used to be when Jews were praying there. Each time I visit this Synagogue I am proud that such a magical place can be found in my little town. I felt in a similar way when I entered the Large Synagogue at the first day of The Festival, the specific pleasant smell made me sure that I want to spend here all day. My voluntary work on this wonderful Festival, which relates to three cultures – among them Jewish, was really an inspiring and educational experience and I had a chance to make my dreams come true and explore every nook and cranny of the Synagogue. It was a magical, mysterious and truly fascinating day for me.”

“Dreidels made by children (also students from a primary school from Belarus) during art workshops organised in Paulin’s Monastery were offered at the local bazaar. At the promenade you could meet volunteers dressed up like Jews from the pre-war Wlodawa – it helped to learn about the history and to recall the atmosphere of a shtetl. In the evening there was a klezmer concert. For me, as a volunteer, it was an incredible and unforgettable experience and I am happy that I could take part in such an important ecumenical event.”

„For me there are no books or films that could teach me more about the Jewish culture than The Festival. I realised that my grandfather and Jewish inhabitants of Wlodawa were walking the same streets. They met in the same shop, the same school. The difference was that they prayed in other temples. I wish I could recreate the atmosphere and look of old Wlodawa.”

This year’s Festival was devoted in particular to Christmas and Chanukah tradition. It was supposed to bring back the cultural and religious aspect of life in Wlodawa, when the multicultural community inhabited the town. In the unique tradition of the borderline region the December holidays of Christmas and Chanukah share a significant position. They involve wide variety of customs, e.g. traditional songs and beliefs.
The Festival is always accompanied with art workshops. This year everybody could learn how to do the Jewish paper cutting, Christmas tree ornaments and greeting cards and how to prepare a dreidel for a special Chanukah game.

Last year students of this class won the third prize in prestigious, nation-wide competition organised by The Batory Foundation and The Karta Centre. They prepared research project “Wlodawa Jews. Difficult homecomings” about former Jewish inhabitants of Wlodawa that survived the Holocaust.

We commemorated the nation-wide “Holocaust Remembrance Day and Genocide Remembrance Act” by organising the:

  • reader contest: Holocaust in literature
  • art contest: It truly happened – Holocaust in my eyes,
  • action of writing letters to pre-war Jewish students of middle schools: Letters to Ghetto
  • march through the town: Memorial March, Memorial Chain, marking the borders of the Wlodawa Ghetto
  • preparation of a cairn that commemorates victims of Holocaust in Wlodawa

This year we also plan to commemorate the “Holocaust Remembrance Day”, regarding in particular tradition and heritage of Wlodawa Jews. We continue to gather information concerning Wlodawa Jews, dividing them into following sections:
  • Jewish quarter
  • On the street: playing games with Jewish friends
  • In school: my Jewish friend
  • Jewish shop: equipment, aromas, products
  • Jewish customs and traditions in my hometown
  • Jewish house: tastes, aromas, customs

In the future we hope to reconstruct a model of pre-war Wlodawa or create a map of our town presenting Jewish places of interest. Our research is not finished yet; it is only a part of a greater project “Memory for the Future – The Jews of Wlodawa”.

Program Coordinator: Anna Bajuk-Piotrowska, history teacher in the Middle School nr 2 in Wlodawa



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