Sunday, August 16, 2009

The New Old City of Warsaw

Being in Warsaw sort of feels like being in Disneyland..

Everything is really pretty and the streets are clean and cobblestoned; horses clippety-clop throughout the town pulling smiling people all around. There are street performers and brightly colored things to buy and the restauraunts are beautifully decorated with an abundance of flowers and greenery. But like Disneyland, everything you in Warsaw is a replica of something that existed some other distant land and time.

Warsaw is, despite the 1600th century facades and cobblestone streets, only about 65 years old. The town was rebuilt by referencing paintings and photographs of the city that was destroyed and burnt to the ground in WWII (1940). All that was left standing then was an old church and a couple stone walls. The Polish people dug Warsaw out of the ashes and re-created what it was before, leaving no detail to spare. They did all this without foreign aid as a testament to the will and endurance of the Polish spirit.

Now, looking up at these buildings that appear old and worn, but are in fact no older than my dad I start to wonder about history. How important is to hold on to the past to understand and explain who we are? Some cities, Berlin for example, was destroyed in WWII as well but went on to rebuild itself as a modern city. The Polish on the other hand wanted things just the same as they had been before the war. How do these different responses explain these two cultures and what can I learn from this?

Woman reading around the old city wall.

This warrior mermaid is the symbol of Warsaw,
here she is in the old town square. Burnt to the ground by the Nazi's everything you see here is a replica of what the town looked like in the 1600's.

The Mermaid stands as a symbol of strength and abundance for the Warsovian.
It is said that she was very good to the people of Warsaw and lived in the bordering River and brought them bounty and protected them from farm. Her face was caste from a young nurse who later went on to write a famous Polish song and then became a National hero when she died in the Warsaw Uprising.

The giant brick wall around the old city, inspired my those that bordered cities all around Eastern Europe in Midieval times.
These walls were usually doubled for extra protection against invaders.

Warsaw old Square at night

I am here to understand a bit about my Polish, Jewish roots.
So far I have learned that Warsaw, once one of the most important and largest Jewish Center in Eastern Europe, now only has 10-15 thousand Jews left. Most of my people were exterminated by the Nazi's in the Ghettos and concentration camps while the lucky ones escaped as refugees to foreign lands..It's almost impossible to imagine.

Today we will go to what is left of the Jewish heritage here in Poland.
We will visit the Warsaw Ghetto, the place where Jews were forced to live when the Nazi's invaded. From one day to the next Jews were forced to leave their homes and belongings, to be confined into tight quarters without the Freedom to leave.

Looking forward to writing more later as I gain a greater perspective on things as I see more.
Peace to all, Liah