On June 27, 2015, a group of twenty-four friends of Forum for Dialogie flew from the United States and Australia to Poland to take part in a seven-day trip – the first Friends of the Forum study trip to our country. On their way, they also visited Ulanów, where Jerzy Dąbek and Jolanta Nicałek, local Leaders of Dialogue, in cooperation with one of the Friends of the Forum, Cheryl Fishbein whose both parents were from Ulanów, run the Heritage Foundation. The guests visited, among others, Memorial Chamber of Ulanów Jews, where local Leaders also talked about their motivations behind their involvement for the preservation of Jewish heritage. Ulanów also revealed its other face to the group – as the town cultivates its woodrafting tradition; the guests took part in a rafting trip between the San and Tanew rivers.
During a study visit that Forum for Dialogue organized at the beginning of December 2011, a group of thirteen representatives of the Jewish community from the U.S, Australia and Israel met junior high school students who had participated in the School of Dialogue program in Ulanów. The students guided their guests, showing them former Jewish sites of their town, which they had discovered while implementing the School of Dialogue program in the spring semester. Both parents of Cheryl Fishbain, who was part of the group, came from Ulanów. This is how she recalls the day:
“This time around it was something very special and thanks to the Forum and the School of Dialogue we really had an opportunity to make a difference in Ulanow.
First of all being there for me was again very emotional but it was a positive experience not only for me but also for others, people, who didn’t really have a personal connection but they had a chance to see what a real shtetl looked like. They had a chance to understand in living color that the shtetl could be a beautiful place, not the black and white and grey that you see in many pictures from before the war, that there are people living in that shtetl who are wonderful and interested and engaged.
The children were involved in this whole process and they were proud to show off of what they found. What was exciting for me is that in their research, not knowing really anything about my family or the Jewish history of the town before, these children found out about the cemetery, about my grandfather’s business and how it was a major, major industry in the town.
The gentleman that collected all of the documents and relics made a place that was just so beautiful and we didn’t want to leave. If we had a few more hours, a few more days to walk around and to get to know people it would have been the best experience. Nobody wanted to get out of there even though we were exhausted and wet and cold and tired it didn’t matter. It was because of the School of Dialogue that opened up the opportunity to speak and communicate and try to understand the other’s experience. That’s what made it such an exciting and positive experience.
The students gave me copies of my parents’ school report cards. The headmistress was emotional, she didn’t want us to leave. Her father and grandfather worked for my grandfather, I knew the Jewish family of her neighbors which she was able to talked to me about, so as we worked through this, as we continued to communicate we were able to move this process forward, and it’s far from over.
I believe in supporting the work of the Forum, I believe in continuing the communications, I believe that we can delve deeper and we will. I truly believe in my heart that such programs as the one of the School of Dialogue and the continuing visiting of Poland by the Jewish community will create a difference, will make a difference.”