Janusz Dąbek



The first piece of information I ever heard about Jews was connected to my grandfather Michał Dąbek, who was a well-respected local shoemaker that would manufacture so-called officer boots. He was taught to make officer-boots on the order of a German officer by a Jewish man from Ulanów called Altman, who had produced shoe uppers before the war. There were also other stories and pieces of information about the life, customs and relations between neighbors. I heard a lot about Jews from my grandmother Eugenia Dąbek through stories about her Jewish neighbors, especially women, who would often drop by to seek her health advice. As a child I would also head out to the Jewish cemetery and listen to stories my friends would hear from their families. As a young man, I was asked to help mount a TV antenna in one of the houses at Ulanów’s main square. While in the attic, I found a piece of paper with a stamp of a local Zionist organization. Many years later, I returned to that very attic to uncover documents from a thick layer of dust. These documents are currently on display in Heritage Museum of Ulanów that opened in 2009. A few years ago, the museum was visited by a Jewish youth group from Australia. In the course of their visit, I was asked – as I often am – why I talk about Jews. My answer is: because Jews were a part of Ulanów’s history. It is my firm belief that history should be presented in its entirety.

In my daily life I work in public administration – namely, Ulanów’s Municipality Office. I am also the founder and curator of Heritage Museum of Ulanów.

I try to make the town’s history as well as that of the local Jewish community accessible to anyone visiting Ulanów in search of their ancestors.

I began sharing my knowledge about local Jews in 2011, when I was asked by local middle school students who participated in Forum for Dialogue’s educational program to present the history of Ulanów’s Jews, point out sites connected to their life and to talk about who they were. The biggest reward for students’ work was a visit of Jewish community representatives from the United States, Australia and Israel. Among the guests was Cheryl Fishbein, whose parents were from Ulanów. In 2014,  together with Cheryl Fishbein and Jolanta Nicałek we created DZIEDZICTWO (Heritage) Foundation that aims to propagate history of Ulanów, of the region, of its townspeople (including the Jewish community) and local traditions, culture and customs.

Since the museum’s opening, Ulanów has been visited by people from Poland and abroad, mostly those seeking information about their ancestors. What is most moving and disarming is visitors’ surprise at learning that Ulanów had its own synagogue and mikveh, that so many Jews had lived here and ran their businesses. What is perhaps most telling is that these visitors arrive with a certain plan and seem to keep their distance, but leave feeling they did not plan enough time for Ulanów. We say our goodbyes, wish them a safe journey and tell them “until next time”. Some of them come back and this is the best reward for us.


Heritage Museum of Ulanów

Janusz Dąbek


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