Sunday, April 10, 2011

Windy Day in Warsaw

We arrived in Warsaw last evening to meet our friends Dvora and her son Gary. Dvora is a survivor and former resident of Radom who now resides in the Twin Cities.  She is sharing her pre-war and ghetto photographs in Radom in conjunction with my artwork and of course her stories. 

Most of our day was spent in travel getting from Lviv to Warsaw, a one hour flight with lots of delays.  Our licensed taxi to the Lviv airport was about a fourth of the cost of the private one we used to get to our hotel.  When I gave the driver a tip, he protested that I had paid him too much.  Ahh, an honest man!  “For you”, I reassured him.

Over dinner we heard about the private taxi that our friends hired at the Warsaw airport. which charged them the equivalent of $60 for what should be an $11 cab ride (45 zlotys).  Travel always involves such stories, small change in the whole scheme of things, but irritating nonetheless.

Before we departed Lviv we had a few hours in the morning and did at stop at the National Museum  of  Ukrainian Art which houses Ukrainian icon paintings from the 14th-17th century as well as special exhibitions of contemporary art.  I found the paintings of Judgment rather amusing as little fellows in black with spiky hair and heels tortured unfortunate souls.  They looked rather cartoon-like through contemporary eyes. Some life-size and realistically painted wooden cutouts represented groupings of saints and other religious figures creating interesting tableaus.  We also especially enjoyed contemporary work by Michael Kimonovsky (my translation from the Ukrainian). 
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It has been cold and blustery in Warsaw with periodic rain.  Last year we got caught in a torrential downpour here so associate the city with miserable weather.  The one bright spot (in addition to our companions) has been our hotel Mamaison Diana which provided us with palatial apartments at a very favorable price.  We are staying in a very modern apartment with two bathrooms, a walk-in closet, a large round Jacuzzi and a balcony which runs the length of two rooms.  We will be totally spoiled for all time after these accommodations.  The restaurant has also been excellent.

We purchased a tram pass for the day so we could easily maneuver the city and set out in the direction of the Jewish Historical Institute.  We actually were heading to the Jewish genealogy office associated with the Institute which is staffed by Yale Reisner and Anna Przybyszewska.  On our last visit to Warsaw we had spent considerable time there and came away with a wealth of information.  I thought Dvora would find this to be an interesting resource as well.  Several hours later we left with lots of information to follow up on at the Radom archives.  We learned that the Jewish school she attended in Radom has been adopted by another school that is in the same area and they are documenting the history of her former school and its attendees.  We’ll make sure to try to connect while there.  We also identified what identity papers are at the Radom archives from the ghetto listing which included Dvora’s family members.

We then walked throgh blustery winds to the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto by which time it had begun to rain in addition to the wind and cold.  We headed for warmth at the Arsenal, an excellent restaurant on the tram line that we had eaten at on our last visit; There we holed up for a meal in cozy surroundings.  Dvora shared many of her stories with us over lunch and we reluctantly departed into the cold after several hours. 

We decided that because of the weather we would opt for a warmer alternative, riding the tram lines on a tour of the city.  Dvora soon began chatting with local residents leading to an alteration in our plans and a visit to the old town area, the Stare Miasto.  Everywhere we went everyone was quite helpful and having a Polish speaker in our midst certainly simplified our usual travel.  One man escorted us to a bus stop and gave us very precise instructions, another chatted at length with Dvora ending the discussion by kissing her hand.  Once again we retreated to a cafĂ© for warm drinks and then made our way back to the hotel where we gathered yet again around food and stories.

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