Forum for Dialogue changed me and opened my eyes. Before I participated in the School of Dialogue program four years ago, I did not know anything about Jews and I did not care to know. However, the workshops sparked my curiosity that has been continuously growing ever since. I started reading, asking, conducting my own research and I felt for myself, how difficult this topic is. And how important! And I am just one of the hundreds or thousands of program graduates who know and feel this. Thank you, Forum!
Marcin Krotla, Kraków
A few days ago, My Friend Nionek Beck passed away. He was 94 years old. He spent his childhood and part of his youth in Nowy Targ. He lost his mother Ruchel, father Chune and sister Sala in the Holocaust. After the war, he emigrated to Palestine, never to return to Poland. I got to know him, as for over a decade I am recreating life stories of Jewish residents of Nowy Targ. I was Nionek’s first contact with a country, in which he experienced immense goodness as well as immense evil. His astonishment and then happiness to have someone interested in recalling his family story will stay with me forever and serve as inspiration. My Dear “Nowytargers” – you have given me your stories, trust and friendship, becoming a very important part of my life. In this difficult time I want to assure you that I will do everything I can to ensure you become an important part of Polish collective memory.
Karolina Panz, Raba Wyżna
Learning about interpersonal relations is always difficult, especially if these involve powerful emotions and experiences. Attempts at dividing, splitting and changing history are painful. For a long time, Polish/Jewish relations kept improving. We had not forgotten. Neither us nor you. However, we were trying to build something new on the rubble of the old. Let us not get carried away by political games, but do what is right and do good.
Wiktoria Grabowska, Izbica Kujawska
My Dear Jewish Brothers, I am Polish, my name is Małgorzata. I was born in May of 1968. I learned about the anti-Semitic events from two months before my birth as an adult, in the course of my education. My cheeks were painfully red due to the shame and anger I felt – I am a political scientist by education. My Dear Brothers – you are invaluable to me, be among us. Dworzec Gdański train station, March 8, 2018. I will be there.
Małgorzata Piotrowska, Komorów
I have been following the latest events in my home country with great sadness. The 50th anniversary of March 1968 is approaching and I feel like that gloomy period in our past has been revived with the approval of the ruling class. It is sad to see some of my compatriots so blinded that they do not realize we have been living together in this land and fighting for it together since the Piast dynasty… Poland is our shared homeland!
Marzena Makarska, Szczecin
I would like you to know that politicians’ actions to a large extent do not reflect the views of many ordinary people. I am ashamed that the country I live in is represented in a way that is offensive to the Jewish community. I carry my homeland in my heart; in my homeland, everyone is equal and worthy of respect.
Klaudia Lewandowska, Warszawa
It is with regret that I observe a surge in anti-Jewish moods under falsely understood defense of Polishness. Pandora’s box had been opened, so let us do whatever we can to look at the difficult past with feeling and understanding. We need a broad perspective, without justifications, but with comprehension. Dear Jewish friends – there are still good-willed and kind-hearted people in Poland who support working towards dialogue.
Dariusz Walerjański, Zabrze
I am a teacher in Szczekociny’s School Complex and for the last 10 years I have been working together with Organization of Jewish Szczekociners on a Jewish Culture festival. In 2008, two Jewish women born in Szczekociny attended the festival – Jadzia Cukerman and Cela Szwarcbaum. Almost from the outset, very close ties were established between us. Jadzia and Cela became my older friends. We would visit one another – in Lelów and Szczekociny during the festival and in their homes in Israel. When I visited Cela in her Israeli home, I realized something very important; namely, that Cela had taken Szczekociny with her. Jadzia and Cela would say many times that through what we do they were able to return to Szczekociny, to their home. They returned not alone, but together with their families. They did not live to see the festival in its 10th edition, but their relatives were there. I deeply believe that these meetings had impacted us all: Jewish Szczekociners and their attitudes towards Poland, Szczekociny’s residents and their attitudes towards the town’s past, as well as the festival organizers themselves. I am convinced that there is a deep meaning in commemorative work, dialogue and alliance.
Mirosław Skrzypczyk, Lelów/Szczekociny
18 years ago we visited Pińczów – before the war, 70% of its residents were Jewish. Memories and an old synagogue building are all that remain of Pińczów’s Jews. We walked without uttering a word. My wife was in tears. “They were here and now they are gone” she said, remembering her family of survivors. The loss was immense, but I am happy that you are here, that you survived. And I am happy that all around the world you build new cities. Thank you.
Bartosz Sokoliński, Warszawa
Dear Friends, Our Older Brothers in Faith! The latest events have made me interested in your history. I studied many testimonies and I am deeply moved by the immense suffering that you have gone through. I am sorry that Poles were also those causing the evil. Do not let the evil deeds and words erect a wall between us today. Let us not cease in our quest for friendship and truth. I like, respect and value you all. God bless you all.
Monika Oleszczuk, Warszawa
Although I was never given a chance to know you, I miss you, my extraordinary and wonderful Jewish friends and neighbors. As a Pole, I feel lacking and impoverished without you. In these difficult moments when fools and cynics try to divide us, I am with you with all my heart and thoughts.
Lech Dulian, Kraków
I am deeply thankful for the years I spent working in a small countryside parish where I met my new friends, descendants of local residents who survived the Holocaust. I have experienced a lot of warmth in these friendships, I heard many tragic stories. God allowed me to help family members separated during the war re-unite. I believe this will not vanish, as goodness is eternal. Only goodness is eternal.
Fr. Rafał Figiel, Świdwin
Mr. Roman, Marek, Sondra, Genevieve, Nahoma, William – I could name more of you. It is thanks to you that today I am the changed person that I am, it is thanks to you I have the courage to stand up to evil. It is thanks to you that I carry less anger and more hope within me. Mr.Roman, you taught me that I should invest in the young generation. My profession is a beautiful one – I am a teacher and I know that power is in the youth. I would like the politicians to stop and listen to my students for a moment. After listening to a witness’ testimony, my student Ala shared her reflections in a competition entry essay, repeating like a mantra Jan Karski’s words to avoid disliking people, that petty wickedness leads to great crimes. This is a simple truth of life. We know this truth. So does Ala. In these difficult moments remember about Poland, Ala and me. We are on your side.
Katarzyna Łaziuk, Mińsk Mazowiecki
I am depressed by the intensity of negative emotions both in Poland as well as among Jews. But this does not mean that there are no empathetic and good-willed people around us – in Poland, Israel or anywhere else. I meet them all the time. We, the good-willed, are currently on the defensive side. But only we can stop this absurd war. How? By relentlessly working towards reconciliation and mutual understanding.
The sense of danger is spreading among my Jewish circles. For the first time in their lives, young people are starting to think whether to consider emigration. We feel that the climate is not unlike the one in March 1968. Expressions of solidarity give us comfort and I am very thankful for them. I am even more thankful to those who in their hometowns – and through this platform – demonstrate that they do not succumb to this atmosphere of hatred.
Stanisław Krajewski, Warszawa
I have been contributing to the Polish/Jewish dialogue for a few decades. In this time period, we learned to talk with each other without prejudice and stereotypes. We made friends and have been working together to commemorate the victims of Dębica’s ghetto. We teach our children about our shared history. We published Dębica’s Yizkor book and now we are trying together to renovate the local synagogue. This puts an obligation on us and for this reason we wish to persevere. Dialogue is the most important!
Ireneusz Socha, Dębica
Reconciliation demands candor and the right to go astray and the right to experience emotions; the latter, however, should not overshadow facts nor their meaning. Goodwill on both sides and an understanding of the mutual determinants are required. But what is most needed is a sincere perspective, which can only be obtained through relentless refuting of myths and accrued lies, building bridges and inquisitive searching for truth. As well as through the ordinary human need.
Joanna Rózga, Warszawa
I do not wish to claim that statements and attitudes presented by politicians are of no significance, I am very aware it is quite to the contrary. I also do not wish to claim that I am not affected by these statements and attitudes at all. To the contrary – when I hear what some of the most important people in the country say about Polish/Jewish past and present, I feel pain. My heart aches. However, I want to make it very clear that their power to spread ignorance, conceit, megalomania and aggression is limited. Now I see that they have an almost insignificant impact on the views and attitudes represented by my students with whom I discuss these matters time and again. Young Poles are open, they seek truth and want to be critical – also towards those whose voices – with the help of the media – are best-heard in Poland today.
Anna Włodek, Tarnowskie Góry
Dear Jewish friends from Israel and the United States! How much I would like to speak and yell out, but how hard it is to utter anything. Thank you for the time we spent together in Poland. For the opportunity to be together and to enjoy this time. I smile at you, although it is so hard to smile for me now. I deeply believe that the Lord has his plan and that in His plan there is still space for truth, goodness and beauty.
Wacław Wierzbieniec, Rzeszów
For certain the messages posted here reach far fewer recipients than statements made by politicians, yet I believe this should not be a deterrent. I am probably younger than most people on this platform, but I wish to vouch for myself and my colleagues that we reject all prejudice and are very much aware of the many wrongdoings caused by Poles to Jews. And we apologize for them.
Dominika Nalepa, Katowice
Dear friends, don’t let them divide and separate us! This is our shared history! We have painstakingly worked towards rebuilding mutual relations and trust! No political chutzpah can destroy that. Difficult topics should be discussed, conclusions should be drawn from mistakes, but first and foremost – we should have respect for each other and demonstrate humbleness in the face of history.
Małgorzata Grabska, Busko-Zdrój
My friends! Lola, Salomon, Hilda, Sharon, Jerzyk, Roy, Shalom, and many others! The meeting we had serves as an example to the whole world of a bond based on love for one’s homeland and ancestors, who created a common space for all of us. No stupid politician can separate us from our thoughts, feelings, and memory! We are one in our mutual experiences, in our closeness and understanding. Filled with concern and shame –
Zbigniew Wieczorek, Radom
I appreciate the input of the Jewish community in our culture. I regret and feel pain for what had happened! No words can express my grief, but believe me, it is sincere. I feel you are my kin and we are all children of the same God. I am happy to see the Jewish community being reborn in my town and I am very much rooting for them.
Agnieszka Rybinska, Wrocław
When 20 years ago I saw the remains of a mezuzah on an old door, I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a long and sometimes difficult journey. But also one that is interesting and immensely satisfying. I spent these years learning history, working as part detective and part archeologist to uncover the lost Atlantis – my family town of Szczebrzeszyn. Translating the Yizkor Books, having hundreds of meetings, and exchanging thousands of emails with the descendants of our neighbors from before the Holocaust. And just as I was starting to think that the change we’ve been working for can finally be seen with the naked eye, when we’re finally safe in the European Union and NATO, it turned out that most of it was an illusion. That we need to work even harder. In the name of historical truth and mutual respect. For our children. We have to do it together, to support each other in times of doubt. Let us be there for each other!
Tomasz Pańczyk, Warszawa
For nearly 20 years, I’ve been working with wonderful people for whom good Polish-Jewish relations are a top priority. It turns out that patiently nurturing these relations in a spirit of truth can yield great results among both Jews and Poles. People who don’t necessarily deal with this relationship on a daily basis, and often harbor bad stereotypes about our coexistence, start to gradually understand the gravity of the issue. We have fostered this dialogue and will to find a common ground for many years. Ten years ago, we had no idea what would grow out of this seed. Today, we can behold a beautiful flower – thought still delicate one, and unable to exist on its own. I implore and encourage my friends, both Polish and Jewish, to not let this flower be stamped down. Let us nurture it like good gardeners so that it spreads and becomes a beautiful meadow. Shalom to all the people of good will.
Artur Bara, Biłgoraj
Relationships are built over the course of years, but can be destroyed in an instant. Let us not allow 20 years of building mutual trust, listening to each other’s stories, and reforging bonds between Poles and Jews to go to waste. We care about what you and your ancestors went through, and also about what you think of us – Poles. We want to build bridges based on truth and an open dialogue about difficult issues. We want to share our point of view with you. And tell you that you are important to us.
Ewa Rutkowska, Warszawa
My dear Jewish Friends, my entire family wishes to send you all our sympathy, admiration, and gratitude, but also our longing, compassion, and all the positive emotions one can feel for one’s fellow man. I want you to know that there are people in Poland, many people, for whom you aren’t just important – you’re also part of us. Of our culture, our language, our poetry, our architecture, our music, our landscapes. You are an inalienable part of being Polish. Let these positive feelings of many Poles triumph over the small-mindedness of anti-Semites. Do not let them overshadow us!
Paulina Kieszkowska-Knapik, Warszawa