Day 11 – April 16, 2010 – Krakow

Today our guide, Eva, took us to see the historical sights of Krakow. Walking through the hallways of Jagellonian University, one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the world, we were told about the work of Copernicus and even saw his written work and instruments used to determine that the earth revolves around the sun. At eleven a.m., we watched from the central courtyard of the University as the astronomical clock played music and the wooden professors marched regally out and back into the doorways of this historical clock. At noon, we entered St. Mary’s Cathedral, where the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski will be held on Sunday. Eerily, we viewed Kaczynski’s photo at the altar of the church. A nun in full habit, a common sight here, ceremoniously pulled open the huge wooden, elaborately carved wooden doors of the altar, revealing many scenes in the life of the Virgin Mary.

After lunch, we went to the 20 foot memorial cross for the victims of Katyn. This massacre of Polish prisoners of war, who were captured by Russians, was commited in 1940 when the Nazi mobile killing squads were systematically killing Jews in these same regions. For 60 years the Polish people did not know for sure what happened to these soldiers because the Russians blamed the deaths on the Nazis, and the Nazis blamed the Russians. In fact, the Nazis used the evidence that they found of the Russian killings as anti-Russian propaganda during World War II. At the foot of the memorial cross lay thousands of flowers and candles for the victims of the Russian killings in 1940 and for the victims of the horrible deaths in the plane crash on the 70th anniversary of the deaths in Katyn. Only in the year 1990, the Russians finally admitted their guilt in these killings. However, there are still thousands of Polish deaths that remain a mystery. Their families still do not know what happened to them.

Being here at this momentous historical time for the country of Poland defies description. Here we are, studying the Holocaust, and now, at the end of our journey, we face this sorrow and the repercussions of World War II again. History is complicated, and this incident reverberates in our hearts. Many people suffered during World War II and families are still suffering today.

10 comments

  1. Mrs. T. and Group. I followed your blogs for the past two weeks and I am so very impressed by not what you all saw but what you have all felt. I enjoyed reading your posts and viewing your photos. Thanks for sharing. Mrs. T. I look forward to putting together a publication this year that far exceeds any other. You all deserve at least that. Safe home to all of you.

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  2. Although I have been to some of the places that have been written about, it has been compelling and refreshing to experience the travels through the eyes of students via the professional posts and pictures to this blog. Thank you to all whose tireless commitment and generosity made this trip possible for the students and for us, the followers. There can hardly be a more valuable, authentic learning opportunity available for our students than this has been. Be safe and well in your journey home. Sheila

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  3. I think that is so neat that you guys got to see and learn more in-depth about the katyn massacre of Polish prisoners of war. Its cool that even during a time of war and a large number of human deaths they still cared about the Polish soldiers. It’s fascinating that not till 1990 did they ever find out the truth that the Russian being responsible for the soldiers death. It shows that the effects of ones actions during war don’t simply fade. Family and friends of victims had a desire to explain and simply understand their loved ones death .

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  4. The blog that i read about the soldiers ,was very helpful , i think that you guys are very lucky to visit these places , and under stand it with many stories and evidences . i also liked the way you discribe the places that u visited and the thing that you saw there. the discribtion even on the clock was very attracted.-joan

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  5. The recognition of the massacres of Jews at Katyn by the Russians is probably very important to the Polish Jews families. Since we are learning about the Armenian Genocide and its denial by the Turks and blaming the deaths on a war, it reminds me of the Russians blaming the Nazis of the killings since they took place during World War II. Since the Nazis knew that the Russians were responsible for the massacre at Katyn, it's also interesting they used it as propaganda against Russia. The Russians admitted to the massacre in 1990 which is better than completely denying that they happened. I feel bad for the Polish families who still do not know who to hold responsible for the deaths of their family members – the Russians or the Nazis. Although certain events in history can be completely identified and explained, sometimes the scariest thing can be not knowing.

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  6. Wow, what an interesting time to be in Poland! Not many people get to witness the funeral of a nations' leader, especially after a freak accident like that. I liked your refernce to Meditation 17. I bet it was really cool getting to see the actual bell that inspired the famous essay. I have to say that I am the most jealous of all of you getting to go up into the mountains and see the beautiful landscape. Now I really want to go hiking in Poland! I hope you are enjoying your extra time there, more fun than being at school I guess. You must be having such a great, moving experience as you visit sites of Holocaust events. I hope you take these memories and lessons home with you and use them to support a culture of life! I'll see you soon, James, Libby, and Mrs. Bauman. Afterall Mt. in Iceland can't clog the skies forever.-Bridget P

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