Welcome to the Story of Our Trip: Day One, March 25, 2012


Dear family and friends,

This is the first entry in our ten-day journey to Poland and Israel. Each day two HEN teachers will give highlights of what’s happening. This first post is being written by Sondra Perl, Jennifer Lemberg, and Erica Kaufman, all of whom are the leaders of the HEN Network. There are twenty-nine of us on the trip: Memorial Library Board members Mark Berez and David Field and their wives Carole Lustig and Ellen Field; Jacob Shoshan, an Israeli historian, indefatigable tour guide; and Mark’s aunt Assia, who is a survivor of the Holocaust. The teachers on the trip include: Diane Williams, Kellie Hannum, Angela Harvey (from Idaho); Wendy Warren and Brenda Johnston (from Montana); Janis Hausmann (from South Dakota); Heather Hollands, Amy Laitinen, and Corey Harbaugh (from Michigan); Casi Owens, Stephanie Smith, and Sue Fletcher (from Kentucky and Ohio); Tosha Tilloston and Gail Desler (from California); Jane Connealy, Tom Seib, and Katie Elsener (from Nebraska); and Gatsinzi Basaninyenzi (from Alabama). We are also joined by two videographers: Steve Zehentner and Roger Grange who follow us around with cameras everywhere we go. Each day going forward, a team of teachers will be reporting on our travels.

7PM. JFK. Our group begins to gather amid heartfelt hellos and warm hugs, with all of our luggage tagged with purple lacy ribbons. After checking in and going through security, we meet briefly to share some writing about what the trip means to us. We hear from each other about fears and anticipations and excitement, but are interrupted often by blaring tv’s and curious travelers. We board our LOT flight to Warsaw – for some of our teachers this is their first time taking a transatlantic flight – and all goes smoothly. We arrive safely in Warsaw on Sunday to a clear, sunny afternoon.

On the bus to the Gensha Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in the world with tombstones dating back several centuries, Jacob describes Poland as a country with a “mixed history,” reminding us that we are standing on ground that resonates and reverberates. Jacob also reminds us that we are the link between the survivors and their stories and the future.











After the cemetery, we board the bus and drive through Warsaw en route to the Warsaw Ghetto. During this trip, we notice that Warsaw is becoming an increasingly cosmopolitan city. We follow the route that the Jews took from the Ghetto to the Umschlagplatz (gathering place prior to deportation), and stop at Mila 18 (the location of the final bunker where the last Jewish resistance fighters chose to kill themselves rather than be killed by the Germans). At Mila 18 we also encounter a ceremony being conducted by a unit of the Israeli army, most moving for all of us was standing there listening and watching the soldiers sing Hatikvah. From Mila 18, we then walk to the monument to Samuel Zygelboim, the head of the Polish government in exile, who, when hearing about the destruction of the Ghetto and the murder of the Jews, committed suicide in protest. Having had no way to stop the murder of the Jews in his life, he was hoping to make a statement by his death.

Before leaving the Ghetto area, we are able to visit two remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto walls. Our final stop, after the Umschlagplatz, was the Nozyk Synagogue—a Sephardic-inspired synagogue—and we are saddened to think that of 135 synagogues in Warsaw before the war, this is the only one that remains. We end the evening at a Jewish-themed restaurant and enjoy a rare opportunity to meet with three Polish teachers of history, English, and Spanish. The discussion was engaging, rich, and full of shared laughter. On the bus back to the hotel, Jacob points out the power in these young teachers being able to laugh, a change, he says, in the demeanor and attitude of Poles in the past thirty years.

10 Responses to “Welcome to the Story of Our Trip: Day One, March 25, 2012”

  1. lthompson says:

    Thank you all for sharing your experiences with us. We are there with you in spirit. I can only imagine the powerful impact this trip will have on your teaching practice, and your students are going to benefit in ways unimaginable. Immerse yourselves in the experiences, and know we are sending good thoughts, love, and prayers your way for your safe travels.

  2. Colleen (a Nebraskan) says:

    Thanks for posting – it’s great to hear about your experiences. I’m studying the Holocaust right now with my 8th graders (started today), in an urban school in Kansas City…they have been interested all day in the difference between how they use the word “ghetto” compared to what it meant during the Holocaust. I am glad to be able to share these posts with them!

  3. Ms.Warren`s A7/8 says:

    We miss you very much. How do you like Poland? We wish we had an opportunity to travel to Poland. Instead we will live through your experiences. We look forward to your next blog.

    • Hi everyone,

      How sweet that you miss me. I miss you too. I’ll have lots of stories to share with you when I get back. Poland is really interesting. We drove by lots of farmland on our way between Warsaw and Krakow, where we are now. As you know, we are visiting some places that are hard to think about. I’ll tell you more about them when I get back.
      Ms. W.

  4. Mrs.Warren's class A5\6 says:

    We just read your blog and the place that your at sounds interesting. what kind of food do they eat there? How is the wheather there, cause it is sunny here? What time is it there if its 12:25 p.m. here? hope your rest of your trip is as much fun as it sounds! goodbye!

    • Hi everyone,

      It’s great to hear from you! We’re in Krakow, Poland now. It’s our second night here. Tonight we had a typical Polish meal starting with mushroom soup. Then we had pork, noodles and a cabbage salad. We’ve been eating well!
      If it’s 12:30 pm there it’s 7:30 pm in Poland. It’s taking a while to adjust to a new schedule.
      See you soon,
      Ms. W.

  5. Mrs.Warren's class A3/4 says:

    We just read your blog and find it very intresting. We hope your trip is going well. Here in Montana the sun is finally shining. Can’t wait until you blog more. We feel like we are traveling with you. Be safe. PS enjoying the pictures.

    • Hi everyone,

      So great to hear from you. I’m glad the sun is out there. I’ll be writing the blog tomorrow with another teacher from Michigan, so you can read it on Friday. Thanks for writing!
      Love, Ms W.

  6. Sally and Doug Karttunen (Heather Hollands parents) says:

    Hello! It is with great excitement and anticipation that we will be following your journey each day thru this website! Here it is only your first day in Warsaw, and already you have seen much! We are there with you via your posts and photos! Sally and Doug Karttunen, Upper Michigan

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