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Thoughts from Polish student Anna Kraus

by on 30 Jun 2011

Student Anna Kraus is affiliated with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and is a part of the third student group.  She writes:

I am Polish and live in Warsaw. Last year I graduated history. Since May 2010 I have been cooperating with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. I was the news editor of the Virtual Shtetl portal dedicated to the Jewish heritage and today’s life in Central  Eastern Europe. I am involved in few educational projects for the Museum. I conduct workshops for Polish and Israeli teenagers and I give tours round Jewish memory sites in Warsaw.

*     *     *

My life in Sanok is simple. The breakfast is at 6.30. Usually it is hard to wake up. People drink coffee and tea with milk discussing the parties of last night…

Was it good? Did you meet some local people? It was weird. It was awesome.

At 7.30 I take my backpack and I start my journey. The way is the same every day. I pass the petrol station, the big shopping mall and a few small houses. If there is no rain, I meet sleepy walkers with their sleepy dogs. I like walking near the river San. In the morning there is nobody near the river, but during the afternoon the bank is filled with young people having rendezvous.

It hard to imagine that in 1939-1941 this small shallow river was the border between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union which had conquered and divided Poland. The slow flow of the river always reminds me of the painful history of Sanok whose inhabitants were persecuted by totalitarian regimes.

There is only one bridge which crosses the river. It rather shaky and it has a wooden pavement for pedestrians. Every time I walk there in my heavy boots I make a terrible noise.

I work in the Skansen which is an open-air museum dedicated to the rural culture of southern Poland. The  wooden huts are hidden amongst the trees together with stately Catholic and Orthodox churches. They were taken from different villages in order to show the ethnic diversity of the region inhabited once by highlanders who called themselves Boykos, Lemkos or Pogórzans. Near the main gate there is a replica of a small Polish-Jewish town typical of the region. Similar towns still exist, but their pre-war atmosphere perished together with the Jews.

I am here on behalf of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews which started the project together with the Handshouse Studio. I work with students who have come from Poland and the US to construct the synagogue’s roof under the guidance of experienced builders from the international Timber Framers Guild.

We start our work with a short briefing at 8:00. Kelley checks the attendance list. People change their shoes and put on suntan cream. Then, the crew discusses the tasks which have already been done and the plans for the next day. When new tasks are set, Rick Brown gives his Indiana Jones hat to one person who is going to read a poem. The poetry time is one of the best moments of a day. It a time for the muse and a little meditation. It is like morning prayer which gives power for hard work.

We saw, hew and plane. There are few stations and every crew has its own tasks to do. We are very curious about the final effect. We construct the roof without using any modern machines. We work as 18th century timber framers and we enjoy it despite the blisters and scratches. Somebody sings, somebody tells jokes. Dan, the camera man, moves secretly and films us. Not only the breathtaking synagogue roof but also our blistered hands and sweaty faces will be perpetuated. We will not be anonymous as the old carpenters. Commemorating their work we learn history and we become a significant part of it.

Do we realize what is really happening here?

Eating sandwiches and Greek salad for lunch, we discuss if it is hard to hew or how any boards still need planning.  We concentrate on simple activities. It is our way of making history. But the big idea will become clear when we finish the construction and see the tall peaked roof and its inner cupola. I will be able to recognize beams and boards on which I worked. Then I will look at my tool marks, the signs of my work, my soreness, my sacrifice, my contribution.

I am a part of this building and it is a part of me. It is my opus, our opus.

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3 Comments
  1. Rebecca Rickabaugh permalink

    Anna, I have so enjoyed reading your words. Your touching interpretation of this very important, historic effort brings tears to my eyes. What a gift you share! From far-away Seattle, Washington, I send my thanks.

  2. yeah anna!!

  3. great work! i hope all is well!

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