Joanna Lorenc



Aunt Wisia and Krakow are to be “blamed” for all this.  My husband Michał’s   aunt, who had an excellent memory and who told us stories about pre-war Rymanów, a small town near Krosno in the Podkarpacie Voivodeship. Each story featured neighbors, tailors, bakers who were Jewish. And since my aunt had acting skills, she was able to perfectly recreate real-life dialogues she had once heard,  between her and the Jewish women she used to meet with. It was these stories that allowed me to imagine the small pre-war shtetl that Rymanów once was, and then extrapolate those images to other places across the country.  Also, my Polish language studies in Krakow were very stimulating, and so was the neglected Jewish district of Kazimierz, which I would visit at least several times a week, reading, walking through old courtyards and reading again… And this is how my interest in Jewish religion and culture was born. I teach Polish language in Bieruń’s middle school, I also teach hold theater workshops at the Bieruń Culture Center. I coach two theatre groups: one for schoolkids, and another one for adults. Theatre is my second passion,  giving me a lot of satisfaction, since I love working with people. Every year, I direct a “full-length” play. With my group of youngsters, we usually choose something classical, whereas with the older group we usually work on plays speaking about contemporary problems of Silesia and we perform in the Silesian dialect. Both groups are extremely popular in my town.  In my private life, I am a mother of two sons and a daughter; my children strongly support my endeavors. I can divide my activities connected with Polish-Jewish matters into two groups. Some are connected with my profession.

I teach middle school children about Jewish history and culture, I conduct workshops at the local Jewish cemetery, I organize students’ meetings with rabbis, who explain Judaism to them. We conduct maintenance work at the Jewish cemetery, we recently painted the wall of the cemetery, to remove  signs painted by local football hooligans. The other activities are connected with the organization of Days of Remembrance of the Jewish Community in Rymanów. For the past nine years, every August, Rymanów organizes events commemorating the Jewish community which lived in our town before the war. The event is attended by Jews from around the world, who are descendants of those who had once lived in Rymanów. The highlight of the event is a Shabbat dinner and a March of Remembrance held on 13 August on the anniversary of the deportation of local Jews to Bełżec concentration camp. The event is very popular among Rymanów residents as well as tourists. My students’ involvement in these activities is a source of great personal satisfaction for me. I am truly happy when they have detailed questions about the life of pre-war communities in the town; when they remind me that there is a need to clean the Jewish cemetery, when they decide on the dates and encourage one another to participate. They also learn more about contemporary Israel.  Discussions with descendants of Rymanów Jews, held during our August meetings, are also extremely important. I have met many extraordinary people and heard many extraordinary stories. I am glad that they leave our country with good memories and that they often change their impressions about Poland and the Poles.


Joanna Lorenc

Bieruń / Rymanów

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