Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Welcome to Poland. Kelly McGovern

March 16, 2014

Hello, my name is Kelly McGovern and I am a junior at Iona College studying Social Work. The main purpose for this blog is for me to share my experiences and feelings about my journey.

I decided to come on this trip to learn more about the Shoah, more commonly known as the Holocaust. I want to learn more by visiting different museums, galleries, speaking with historians and survivors as well as being able to visit the death camp Auschwitz. I also hope to gain knowledge about the culture and traditions in Poland.

Today was the first day we ventured out into the cities. We visited Wadowice, the town where Pope John Paul II grew up. It was extremely interesting to see actual pictures and pieces of furniture that were in the Popes house. I learned many things about Pope John Paul II that I was not aware of such as his real name, Karol Wojtyła. Learning that the Pope loved to ski, play sports, act in plays as well as write his own plays was almost comforting. 

Pope John Paul II with his bassinet

Pope John Paul II skis 

After visiting the exhibit on Pope John Paul II, we attended a Polish Catholic mass. Although the whole mass was in Polish, I was still able to understand what was going on to a certain point from the gestures of the priest and parishioners, as well as the tone of the songs that were sung. Before the mass began, we were given a sheet of paper, which had the English translation of the scriptures and Psalms that were being read. The fact that I was able to understand what was happening almost put me in awe. It truly shows how consistent the Catholic religion is worldwide. 

Church where I attended mass 

Oświęcim was the second town we visited. First, went to a Jewish center, which housed the last standing synagogue in Oświęcim. The first room we went into was the synagogue. All of the furniture was replicated, because when the Nazis overtook this particular synagogue, they burned everything that was inside. There were two plaques on the wall, which indicated advisors of the synagogue, as well as a memorial from a wife to a husband of the synagogue. Having only been to a synagogue once, it was fascinating to learn about everything in the synagogue and its meaning. My favorite was being able to see where the Torah was kept and how it is read. The covering over the Torah was beautiful. 

Cabinet with the Torah's inside 

The second room we went into in the museum contained different artifacts and pictures of those who lived in Oświęcim. I love to see the pictures of people doing daily activates. It helped me better visualize how life was during that time. There was one box, which contained artifacts that were in the Great Synagogue, which was torn down by the Nazis. There was a beautiful menorah and a chandelier. The chandelier had an eagle at the top, which I later learned, is a national symbol for Poland. 

Artifacts from the Great Synagogue 

Seeing these artifacts that were once apart of such an amazing structure that no longer exists, and seeing pictures of those innocent people who lived in Oświęcim who were persecuted for no real reason was upsetting. When our tour guide for this museum was explaining the different pictures to us, she stated how for almost every picture the fate of those who were photographed is unknown. After hearing this, it made me mentally prepare myself for what the rest of the trip has in store for me.

I am so thankful and blessed to be able to be apart of such a life changing and meaningful trip.


Kelly McGovern 


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