Reconnecting Ties

Margolis family’s visit to Łomża

October 2012

In the Fall of 2012, seven members of the Margolis family from Chicago visited Łomża, their ancestor’s hometown. Four years earlier, Samantha Margolis participated in a study tour to Poland organized by Forum for Dialogue. The first trip to Poland kindled Mrs.Margolis’ sense of affinity with family history that she wished to pass on to her relatives. In 2012, the family decided to pay a group visit to Łomża’s School of Dialogue participants.

Guests were received by participants of two Schools of Dialogue – from Economic High School Complex No. 6 in Łomża and Łomża District Home Army Soldiers High School No.3. Students from the latter school prepared snacks and a presentation on Łomża’s Jewish history in English. To prepare for the visit, they also paid a visit to the Municipal Archives, where they found prewar maps of the town and precious information about the Margolises that their Chicago guests had not known about before. With the assistance of an archivist, students were able to translate the documents from Russian to Polish and then to English. Students had the documents framed and presented them to guests as a souvenir of the visit. Already in the course of the meeting at the school, students immediately struck a rapport with the family.

After welcoming the Margolis family, students took their guests on walking tour through Jewish Łomża.

The family received a city guide “Retracing Jewish History of Łomża” in the form of a booklet that was put together and printed by the students with the support of their teacher and local Leader of Dialogue, Mr.Marcin Mikołajczyk. Young guides pointed out the site of the former synagogue and the ruins of the Jewish cemetery where Sara Golding, one of the great grandmothers of the family, was most likely buried. Students were also able to locate and visit the site where the family’s grandfather, Saul Margolis, had lived prior to departing for the United States, as well as find the names of Łomża’s prewar shopkeepers – among them their guests’ great grandfather, Arjer Lejbe Margolis. In the course of the walk, the group encountered an Israeli couple on their own search for their roots, who joined them for the tour.

Reflecting on the visit, Samantha Margolis said: “It’s hard to put into words how important this day in Łomża was for us all. Not only did we experience the spirit of the former Jewish life our grandfather had lived, but we felt connected to Łomża’s and Poland’s future through the hope and warmth demonstrated by the students, who on that particular day became our teachers”.