Our 2011 Eastern Europe Tour
Part 1 - Page 5

This is Jerzy Kowalewski, a GCT Cultural Speaker. He is a Polish survivor of Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Dachau. He survived by using his language skills in Polish and German and by not being a Jew. He is now in his 80's and he has had a full life in Poland, USA, and Argentina.

In 1939 he joined the Polish Army and fought the Nazis, got caught and was sent by the Germans to Pawiak Prison in Warsaw, was transfered to Aushwitz in 1942, tatooed with number 31119, was sent to the Gross Rosen and Dachau concentration camps, was liberated by Patton's Army, recuperated in an American Army hospital, rejoined the Polish Army, went to Italy, spent 2 years in a university in Rome, traveled to Argentina (met Eva Peron), returned to Poland in 1949 and found his mother.

From then on, as a non-Communist Party member and second-class citizen, he had a hard time earning a living. He worked first for the Argentine Embassy, next in construction, and finally for the state-owned travel agency. He married in 1972, and in 1973 his son, Adam, was born. As a result of the medical experiments conducted on Jerzy by the SS, Adam suffered from polio since birth.

From then on, Jerzy served as an advocate for children who were born with a handicap attributable to their parents imprisonment in a concentration camp, and he continues that work in Poland to the present day.

He was a semi-pro tennis player and still plays today.

Quite a guy, quite a life!!

After Jerzy's talk, Mary Ann and I had a free day and we spent it walking around Warsaw. We visited this memorial sculpture of the Warsaw Uprising.

On a previous page I commented on the "Uprising" and the loss of life and property. This two part sculpture depicts Polish Resistance Fighters running from the Nazis out of the rubble of Warsaw. The second part, nearby, shows them heading into the sewers. This was their last refuge. The Nazis finished them off by gassing the sewers.

We walked back to the Old Town Square. Here is another view of King Zygmunts Column. That's the King on top along with his resident pidgeon. In the background are two churchs: The one with the long sloping roof is St. John's Archcathedral, originally built in the 14th century in Masovian Gothic style, the Cathedral served as a coronation and burial site for numerous Dukes of Masovia. Of course, it was demolished in 1944. It has been rebuilt.

The second church was founded by King Sigismund III in 1609, for the Jesuits. The main building was constructed between 1609 and 1626 in the Polish Mannerist style. The story goes that the Jesuits wanted a church in the Old Town, but there was no room to build one. On night there was a fire next to St. John's and, Voila!, now there was room. Of course, it was also demolished in 1944. It has been rebuilt with a slightly higher spire.

Mary Ann liked the looks of the two Polish kids with their babushkas. She's probably like to see our two grand daughters wearing them?

After a long day of walking around we went to The Sphinx Restaurant in a local mall for dinner. The waiter took two pictures for us. Which do you like best?

I had (what else?) pork and cabbage. Mary Ann had chicken and cabbage.

The next day we took our bus with Mirek, our excellent driver and Edi, our super excellent Tour Director from Warsaw to Krakow.

On the way we passed many villages and farms. One village even had storks nesting on a power pole.

Our next stop on the way to Krakow was Czestochowa and the Jasna Gora Monatary.

Founded in 1382 by Pauline monks who came from Hungary. The monastery has been a pilgrimage destination for hundreds of years, and it contains the most important icon of the Virgin Mary in this part of Europe. The icon, depicting the Mother of God with the Christ Child, is known as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa or Our Lady of Czestochowa, which is widely venerated and credited with many miracles.

Among these, it is credited with miraculously saving the Jasna Góra monastery during a siege that took place at the time of "The Deluge", a 17th century Swedish invasion. Although this event was of little military importance, the event stimulated the Polish resistance. The Poles could not immediately change the course of the war but after an alliance with the Crimean Khanate they repulsed the Swedes.

Shortly thereafter, in the cathedral of Lwów, on April 1, 1656, Jan Kazimierz, the King of Poland, solemnly pronounced his vow to consecrate the country to the protection of the Mother of God and proclaimed Her the Patron and Queen of the lands in his kingdom.

Here is the chapel where the portrait of the Black Madonna hangs. There was a Mass going on and the chapel was jammed with the Faithful.

Next door the chapel where the portrait of the Black Madonna hangs is another chapel. This one is huge and, as you can see, very ornate. There was a Mass going on here as well.

Outside of the chapels there were throngs of people. Maybe it was a religious holiday, or maybe there are lots of people who make pilgrimages here. Note the two young girls in white. They were colecting money from the crowd.

This is a view of a castle ruins south of Czestochowa taken from in front of a restaurant called The Granary. We had a nice lunch here.

Here is our lunch crowd in an alcove in the cellar of The Granery. You've met everyone here already except Albert Myers from Ft. Myers, FL and Betty Evans from Gainesvill, FL.

Here is our room in the Raddison Hotel in Krakow. Across the street is a pretty park and beyond the park is the Old Town. A great location! We took a mini tour of Krakow, Saw Schindler's Factory,The Katyn Cross, an amber shop, a couple more churches, returned to the hotel, had supper with the GCT group - with Polish song and dance entertainment, and turned in for the night.

Here is the Polish singer, musicians and dancers. They don't look very exciting in a photo, but I took some movies that shows their talents better than a still photo. Oh well..

Tomorrow we go to Auschwitz I and Birkenau (Auschwitz II). They are not nice places! I'll understand if you want to skip Page 6 and go directly to Page 7.

Go to Home Go to P.2 Go to P.3 Go to P.4 Go to P.6 Go to P.7 Go to P.8 Go to P.9