| 2012 |
Łomża Region Home Army High School No 3
They conducted interviews, shot a film, acquired funds to publish a professional guide, organised a tour for teachers from other high schools and prison officers. Their work was honoured with the second award at the School of Dialogue Gala. Students of the history club from High School No 3 in Łomża say that they are bound by their love for history, and by joining the project they wanted to broaden their own knowledge and the knowledge of their peers from other schools.
It all began in Autumn 2012 in the building of their high school which before the war served as a Jewish hospital. “We are history lovers so when we found out about the contest, we got extremely enthusiastic,” recalls Paweł Bieńkowski, a program participant. Marcin Mikołajczyk who is the leader of the history club, encouraged young people to participate in the project. He is passionate about history, and an expert on local history. “I want young people to learn about tolerance. There were times when various cultures lived here together in peace. Students should know it” – said Marcin Mikołajczyk. During a series of workshops organised by the School of Dialogue, students discovered Jewish past of Łomża. The issue was not something new for them. They were already aware of the existence of the Jewish community in their town.
But now they learnt much more and started to explore the issue independently. As Sylwia, a project participant, says: „No one forced us to do this work, no one yelled at us. We were rather encouraged. Our good actions were emphasized and praised, and our mistakes gently pointed out.”
As a part of their project, high school students from Łomża organised a walking tour following the footsteps of Jews from Łomża. They invited their peers and teachers from 3 other secondary schools in Łomża for the event. Before, they visited the Town Archives. They found there pre-war town maps and documents which, with the help of the Archives employee, were translated from Russian and then framed. Some of the materials found during work over the project were in Yiddish or Hebrew, and were translated with a help of Aneta Kulińska, a Forum for dialogue educator. Students also found some interesting photographs which have not been published before in Polish sources, as well as names of many shops and faactories’ owners in Łomża. Their teacher, Marcin Mikołajczyk, decided that students’ work deserved professional publication. He managed to gather funds to publish a guidebook from local companies. The well-edited text was then translated into English, and published as a bilingual guidebook.
At the same time, two high school girls from the history club prepared a half-hour film to present the history of Jews from Łomża. The girls and older town residents interviewed by them, tell stories about the times when Jews constituted 40% of the town’s population. They talk about the synagogue in Senatorska Street, which today is commemorated by a plaque, about the shops run by Estera Bengeldorf and Enoch Peltynowicza in Długa Street, about Jewish bakeries at the Market Square with delicious whole wheat bread, about photo shops “Foto Rembrandt,” a wooden stand of Mr Rubinstein and the Alter Szapiro carbonated water plant.
In June 2013, whilst continuing their involvement in bringing back the memory of Jews from Łomża, students organised a walking tour in the footsteps of Łomża Jews for prison officers from the nearby town of Grądy. As Mateusz Grzymkowski, a journalist of a local newspaper “Współczesna,” wrote about the event: “the prison officers were mostly surprised by the Jewish cemetery in Wąska Street. There were a few hundred or so historic headstones. The officers who walked at the end of the group talked with each other. “I did not expect that the cemetery was so big” – one of them whispered.-“Yes, in fact, a good bit of history”– his friend answered. They did not realize before that Łomża was the town whose history was written down by people from various cultures.“
Participation in the program was full of surprises for the students from Łomża. Even before they completed the workshops, they received a visit from seven members of the Margolis family, whose grandfather emigrated from Łomża to the US. Students were extremely happy and satisfied when they managed to find the birth certificate of the Margolis’ grandmother in the State Archives in Łomża. During the walking tour led by the students, the group met an Israeli couple searching for their roots in Łomża and trying to visit Jewish sites on their own. So students said: please, join us! A few minutes later the astonished Israeli couple walked with the Margolis family and the School of Dialogue participants through the town. A few months later, students were awarded the second prize during the annual School of Dialogue Gala.
They concluded: “The many months of our preparations and work were noticed on a national level. We feel satisfied because together we have reached our objective.” They also added, “Our participation in the program launched by the School of Dialogue has only proved to us that for many centuries Poland was a multicultural country. And, therefore, in reference to that, we want to be open-minded and tolerant people who break stereotypes” – emphasized students from Łomża.
Łomża Region Home Army High School No 3
2nd Award at 2012 School of Dialogue Gala
Continuing School of Dialogue in 2013
school history club
Danuta Bzura, Ewa Zagata, Michał Kaczyński
Aneta Kulińska, Stanisław Niemojewski
School of Dialogue program in Łomża was made possible by the support from BARBARA, LARRY, SAMANTHA and JOSHUA MARGOLIS, NANCY and PAUL MADDRELL.
In appreciation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) for supporting this educational program. Through recovering the assets of the victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference enables organizations around the world to provide education about the Shoah and to preserve the memory of those who perished.
In appreciation to Friends of the Forum for supporting the School of Dialogue educational program.