Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ann Zelenka- Leaving Poland: Reflections

As I leave Poland this morning, I have a feeling of accomplishment. I am proud of the fact that I have furthered my knowledge concerning the events of the Shoah. I have gained a deeper perspective of these events through physically visiting the sites of the camps and hearing the stories of various victims and survivors. Additionally, as a result of this trip and of visits to the sites, I recognize and I realize my personal responsibility that has been discussed all during the week: the responsibility to, as a result of this experience, direct one’s life in a positive manner that brings about positive change in one’s community, even if it is only through small means such as collecting items for the homeless. This responsibility, which is already present in my life and which I already act upon through service to others in my community, will now be an even greater priority as a result of this trip.

I am proud to have gained a deeper sense of my heritage through this study abroad trip. Fr. Jan Novak, whom I met yesterday, told me that it is my personal duty (as a result of visiting Poland) to return to Poland one day in order to further my knowledge of my heritage here. I took this statement quite seriously and I hope to one day return to this country in order to complete this task. I feel a connection between myself and this place and it has now become extremely important to me. I hope to one day learn fluent Polish and be able to teach this to my family. Additionally, I would like to start a fund to bring Polish students to America to be able to give them opportunities to have a perspective on my home country as well.

Additionally, I want to further my knowledge of the Shoah on my own time. I would like to know more about the American and Russian involvement in World War II, particularly regarding the stories of the soldiers who assisted escapees or victims. The film: Hidden In Silence is one example of this type of research that I would like to review. In the story, Fushia Pedgorska hides Jews in her Polish home during the war, and at the end, both she and her hiding friends receive aid from Russian soldiers. I would like to know if these stories are common or if this is just a matter of happenstance. It would be interesting to find accounts of US soldiers who assisted Jews by smuggling them to our country, but this may be highly unlikely or rare.

Finally, for me, this trip was a type of retreat. I was able to contemplate and reflect on various issues that I have been having in my own life and I believe that I have experienced some healing in this regard. I am peaceful, and ready with a firm purpose to return home and to continue to have this peace surround both myself and those that I love.


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