Thursday, March 8, 2012

Michelle: Let's Go!

Here I am and nice to meet you!
Dr. Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs from the Center for Holocaust Studies at the
Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland

Hi! Or should I say in Polish, "Cześć"? (Don't quote me on that, Google Translate can play tricks on you).  My name is Michelle Muzzio. I am currently a freshmen in the Honors Program at Iona College working on a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Mathematics. I'm leaving tomorrow for Poland, and I need to remember to pack my gloves. It is in the 30's over there! This warm New York winter has me forgetting what real winter is all about.

You may be wondering, like many of my peers did at first, why would a science major want to go on a Study Abroad program focused in the Religious Studies department? Well, the answer lies in my upbringing. I was raised as a mixture of religions. My father's family was Catholic and my mother's was Jewish. While I was baptized Catholic myself, I always wanted to learn more about my mother's heritage, and well... what an opportunity this is! I can complete an upper level Religion course (a requirement for Honors) AND be able to learn something that I have been craving to learn more about since I was little. It is rare that one can take a course that directly targets their life, but gosh, RST 425PO, you hit the target of my life real well.

We have been having classes here in the states for a few weeks now, and tonight was another one of them: a lecture and discussion lead by Dr. Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs. Through speaking about trends of Polish understanding of the Holocaust, she gave me and the group a very fitting segue into our time together this week. Being in Poland, especially in Oświęcim, we are going to see first hand the Holocaust's effect on Polish culture, of yesterday and today. What I found truly fascinating about her lecture, however, was her use of art and visual imagery to capture the audiences attention. For example...

2002, Zbigniew Libera's "Residents"

This is a staged photograph, set many years after the Holocaust, but I realized its relevance when she said something to the effect of: when we see a picture with happy faces like this, we honestly realize how horrible all the rest of the iconic Holocaust pictures are. You must see both in order not to get "used" to what you typically see.

And to be honest, that is exactly what I am expecting to happen on this trip. I want everything I am "used" to hearing or thinking or seeing about the Holocaust or Jewish and Polish tradition to be redefined with the clearer lenses of understanding. I am excited to be able to go home and tell my mom what I learned in school today, and have it not be integral calculus. I'm pretty sure she wants that too.

Also, I am excited for some real Polish food! That can be a reason too, can't it? Here goes nothing, everyone.


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