Piotr Jakoweńko: Perhaps it was our destiny to work in this field. Just by chance we learned from a Będzin official that on the first floor in a private tenement house the space of a former Jewish prayer house is up for rent. This prayer room was discovered in 2006 but neither the city council nor any organization wanted to care for it. We were shocked.
Karolina Jakoweńko: Będzin is my hometown. 30 thousand Jews lived here before World War II but their history has been swept under the carpet since. You can find information plaques, and monuments commemorating the ghetto and the synagogue, but hardly anyone pays attention to any of it. We decided that we need to rent the prayer house or another remnant of our city’s past would be destroyed. We made this decision without having any idea what to do with the place. It was a spontaneous act.
Karolina: I studied cultural studies, Piotr is a graphic designer. Only after we took care of the prayer house did we realize the importance of Jewish contribution to development of Będzin. Jews built factories and houses, invested in the industry, many of them lived in the city center. Due to this new-found passion, I completed a post-graduate program in Jewish studies at Jagiellonian University in Kraków. I am also a tour guide and tour leader in Silesian voivodship. Piotr is passionate about history but he is also the mastermind behind the visual aspect of all our published works; which makes for an important part of our activism, as we are now recognized thanks to our strong visual identity. Since January 2016, I have been working as head of the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance – which is a local branch of Museum in Gliwice. Family? Most important! First child? Cukerman’s Gate, second – Helenka, the sweetest and most wonderful person in the world! Our greatest success was definitely the restoration of the polychromies in the prayer house. We convinced the building’s owners to register the space we as a heritage site, and then established Brama Cukermana foundation and applied for funds to renovate the polychromies. We obtained funding for 100% of the renovation costs from the Silesian Voivodeship Conservator of Historical Monuments, a feat that happens rarely.