Reconnecting Ties

Visit of Facing History and Ourselves Educators

July 2014

In the summer of 2014, a group of US American educators affiliated with Facing History and Ourselves – an international organization bringing together teachers to combat racism, anti-Semitism and prejudice and to foster democratic values education – came to Poland on a study visit. On July 31, the group visited students from John Paul II Junior High School in Pruszków, who had participated that year in School of Dialogue program.

The guests were welcomed by school’s principals and town mayor, while the meet&greet session was also attended by Mr.Marian Skwara, author of a number of historical books about Pruszków and its Jewish residents. After introductory workshops that helped students and their guests establish common ground, local youth took on the role of tour guides and led the US educators on a walking tour through Pruszków’s Jewish sites.

The tour had been prepared for the Spring edition of School of Dialogue program and led through a number of prewar Jewish sites in the town as well as presented local events from World War II-era. Two students would discuss the history behind each site, which was then supplemented by Mr.Skwara’s stories. The final stop on the tour was the Jewish cemetery. There, the group met with Mr.Eugeniusz Kuteń, a local volunteer who takes care of the site. Mr.Kuteń encouraged the guests to return to Pruszków and assured them he would be very happy to host them also in the future.

After the visit’s end, participants admitted that meeting school students in Pruszków was one of the highlights of their study trip to Poland. To quote one of the participants: “meeting Polish school students and seeing the town with their eyes was an eye-opening and empowering experience, my personal favorite on this whole trip.” A fragment of the article published on Facing History and Ourselves blog may be a good summary of the visit: “Perhaps more importantly than the history that the students are exploring in the present, is what aspect(s) of this experience they take with them into their future.”