Kraków, Poland

As their historical readings for 4th grade, Sean, Carter, and Ammon had been reading multiple books from the Holocaust: The Hiding Place, Irina’s Children & Anne Frank. Sean had read Schindler’s List by himself then he paraphrased / abridged, then taught Ammon and Carter some events that had happened with Jews and the Polish people in Krakow, Poland. Shindler’s Factory is almost 2 miles from downtown Krakow. By the time we finished the logistics of our Polish Summer, we knew we wanted to spend the most of our time in Krakow. We also decided to save Krakow for the end of our Caylor-Brown Polish Experience 2019. It was not just the engaging history and charming Polish architecture we were looking forward to in Krakow, but the geographic region is very much like Southeast Tennessee too: rolling hills, low-lying mountains, and lots of summer-green.

The 21st Century high-tech Polish passenger trained had taken 4 hours to get from Gdansk to Krakow. We had been anticipating Krakow for 2 weeks. The greenery of the Polish fields and the demure mountains of southern Poland pulled us like a magnet into the Krakow-Glowny Railway Station.

train_krakow
One of those adventurous, engaging European train rides from Gdansk to Krakow- July 3, 2019

By taxi, we found our wonderful apartment (full apartment – huge Great Room -living room/dining area/kitchen , hallway, bathroom w/clothes washer, and huge bedroom … like $75/night). The Caylor-Browns were neither disappointed with the apartment nor the city of Krakow.

Krakow_kitchen
You can tell by the size of the full kitchen kitchen how large the apartment is.

Milk Bar (s)– large cities in Poland have popular restaurants called Milk Bars. It’s cafeteria style and sells the same foods (perhaps a SLIGHT CHANGE of menu taking out some breakfast foods around noonish) all day long starting at 8 AM. If you find yourself at a Milk Bar in Poland be ready for lots of potatoes, beets, peas & carrots

I think we ate here at least once a day for 7 days.. well, almost. My most memorable moment was when, I think, a native Krakow couple was eating at this Milk Bar. The mentally disabled gentleman of the couple walked up to our table, grabbed a fork, and ate my remaining potatoes from off my plate!

The City of Krakow (associate the paragraph with the below photos)

I am really looking forward to returning to the St. Mary’s Basilica. It has been my favorite building of worship in Europe since I started traveling in 1984. I’ve only felt this spiritual connection one other time at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, but I was only there for an hour. I was in Krakow for a week. Each morning after my morning jog (finishing up around gulp!….. 6:30 AM!! Sunrise was about 5AM), I entered the basilica, knelt, and prayed. They weren’t just rote-memorized prayers, but Spirit-lead… everything from my family, to distant friends, to the Polish people, to world peace, to Milk Bars! LOL I really felt a spiritual connection while in the basilica. Wawel Castle is on a hill overlooking the Vistula River. The castle (begun sometime around 1038) sits over rock caverns one of which was the home of the legendary Wawel Dragon. The bronze, fire-breathing dragon is a leviathan of enjoyment. It breathes fire about every 5-10 minutes.

 
 

There was a lot to do in Krakow proper, but I want to venture to some nearby attractions with you all: The Wieliczka Salt Mines and the Oskar Schindler Factory (Krakow Museum). The salt mine has 26 subterranean caverns. One of which is a chapel to worship. All the walls and sculptures in the salt mine are made of salt. If you go to Krakow for any length of time, you must take a tour of this mine: Well worth the money.

Huge Chapel in salt mine

From 1939 to 1944 Oskar Schindler, an official member of the Nazi Party, had an enamel factory in Krakow. Between the Krakow Ghetto ( walking distance to the Factory) and the Plaszow Work Camp, Mr. Schindler saved 1,200 Jews from extermination. In 1962, he was declared a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official agency for remembering the Holocaust. According to his wishes, he was buried on Mt. Zion , Jerusalem. Thanks be to God for such human beings as Oskar Schindler.

Schindler’s Desk & Schindler’s Secretary’s Desk . One of only 2 preserved 1940 rooms of the museum.
 

Two more things:

Nazis topple Krakow/Polish History

1) There is an underground museum in the Market Square. It commemorates Middle Ages Krakow. We were not allowed to take photos, so I will allow Trip Advisor to give you all a tour. 

2) Several countries, Russia, Austria, and Germany (Nazis) have tried to erase Poland from the world: Literally. When people do this, they eradicate art (sculptures, STATUES), literature, music, and language. They wish to ERASE your identity …. your heritage. While we were at the Schindler Museum I took a photo of a photo where Nazis were toppling a provincial / national Polish statue attempting to erase history. Folks, since the dawn of civilization, groups have done unnecessary sometimes horrific atrocities. No person, city, state, nation, or empire is blameless. That doesn’t mean we erase the art, literature, and heritage from the past. We simply need not repeat man’s inhumanity to man. 

I hope you have enjoyed this Krakow blog. If you happen to be following chronologically, you are approaching my final blog of Poland. It will be a blog covering our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. As I write the final words of this blog, I am already very emotional in my soul with its preparation. I am praying that I will do the experience of Auschwitz justice and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Warsaw, Poland: June 26-June 30, 2019

 

Polish people never yearn for freedom. They fight for it! 

To understand the courage and resilience of Warsaw (and Poland) I want to take you all back to 1920. After 120 years of not existing as a country on the world globe, Poland had become a country again after World War I. It was strong, vibrant, and ready to blaze into the 20th Century as an independent nation. However, it had made two enemies, Russia and Germany, with rabid instincts to retake the lands they had held during those 120 years. Germany was too busy recuperating from the economic depression and high unemployment during the 1920s to pay much attention to Poland, but Russia with its newly instituted Red Army tried to take Poland in August of 1920. World History rarely teaches how Poland beat the crap out of the Red Army and they went running back to Russia leaving Poland alone to “enjoy” the Roaring Twenties.

Poland experienced two decades of peace and prosperity. It was the envy of Europe. Warsaw was bourgeoisie and lively. Back in Germany, Adolf Hitler had set Germany on a route to European as well as world domination. In a rare and short-lived alliance of political, polar opposites, fascist Germany allied itself with communist Russia to CRUSH Poland so they could regain “their” lands of the 19th century. Very few history books tell students that Poland almost recuperated from Germany’s September 1939 blitzkrieg. Germany had exhausted its ammunition, and Poland was ready to turn them back: Enter Russia on Poland’s Eastern front. Poland could not defend itself on both sides, and it fell.

 

One of the saddest parts of the Nazi occupation was the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto that housed 200,000 Jewish people. Jews from all over Europe had been shipped to Warsaw for their holding until they could be forwarded to extermination camps such as Auschwitz Birkenau or Treblinka. Two heroes (on opposite ends of the survival spectrum) emerged: Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak. Irena Sendler was a nurse in Warsaw who with her resistance group helped save over 1000 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Although she risked her life, was beaten, and tortured (like whipped the soles of her feet then they broke her legs), and almost executed several times, she survived and lived until 2008. Janusz Korczak was a children’s author (“King Matt the First”) and a doctor. He took care of the orphaned, Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. When the Nazis decided to ship the Jewish orphans to Treblinka for extermination, Dr. Korczak refused to leave their side even after Christians and the resistance begged him to stay in Warsaw and fight. Janusz died with his children in Treblinka.

Janusz Korczak: National Hero of Warsaw and Poland

Janusz Korczak was a doctor and and a children’s author who refused to be separated from the Jewish orphans from Warsaw. They were all exterminated in Treblinka.

 

Americans call the August 1944 uprising to take over its city the Warsaw Uprising but the English words in Warsaw say Warsaw Rising. The people of Warsaw knew the allies were headed to Berlin, and when they arrived in Warsaw to help deliver it, they wanted to show them that they were a free city who had liberated itself. They fought for 3 months: men, women, children (ran electricity lines and utilized the sewer city with great effect), clergymen, EVERYONE. Part of the city was even FREE. However, German forces were still embedded in the city, and their supply lines were still healthy. The Polish people hoped and prayed that either the allies or the Russians could send help, but help never came. If you travel to Warsaw, the Uprising Museum is a MUST SEE.

 

The Germans may have been losing ground in Western Europe, but they were going to severely punish Warsaw for its uprising. Because so many Germans were still rat-nested throughout the city and could not be evacuated (Russian forces were just a few miles away waiting to pounce on German troops to arrive… if they arrived!), Germany gave all civilians 48 hours to get out of the city, flee to wherever, because the bombing planes were going to OBLITERATE the city, and they did. In the Uprising Museum, there is a 5 minute 3D video of the post-obliteration of the city. It looks like a nuclear holocaust: The church to the right is St. Augustine’s church. It was spared, not because the Nazis respected this Catholic Church, but because it held Nazi ammunition, foods, and medical supplies.

 

So, Poland became communist in 1945. The Polish people suffered greatly under communism, but they persevered.

Warsaw_communist

The Soviets took over Poland for 45 years, but they DID NOT take over the Pole’s spirit of Freedom.

 

In 2019, the Polish people are “loud and proud”. They refuse to allow foreign powers to tell them what to do with their people and their government. They are very nationalistic, and keep their wonderful culture flourishing. They love families. The Polish government even pays its families to have more children. The families spend time together, eat together, shop together, and go to church together. The Caylor-Browns experienced their awesome nationalism and hospitality, and we were so impressed. We definitely want to learn more Polish and return to Warsaw soon.