After a late wake-up and a hearty breakfast (including hot chocolate!), we were off to explore the streets of Warsaw.
We departed in a large cluster of students and then split up when we reached the Old City. Freely walking around, we saw where the old meets the new. Tourist traps cropped up along the worn streets. The Presidential Palace stood proudly across from a pizza parlor. Squawking birds flew overhead as local artists sold paintings and wooden creations against the backdrop melded by the 20th and 21st centuries.
In the market square, I noticed a brightly colored item flapping in my periphery and I turned to behold a delightfully dressed, womanly bundle. It was being held by a woman at the center of the square, and the pair was surrounded by a crowd of people shouting and celebrating.
Naturally, I had to take a look. My friend Dan came face-to-cloth with the doll, the two drinking in the glory of each other.
After a confusing conversation that was more in hand motions than in Polish or English, we learned that the Slavic Belarusian ethnic minority group was celebrating the coming of spring. As we watched them parade the doll down the streets of Warsaw to drown it, playing a very vibrant tune, we couldn't help but smile.
We then went to the new part of the city and encountered shocking and unique stores like Starbucks. We passed several pizza places, a tea shop, an Italian pastry shop (with incredible tiramisu I might add), and a Bollywood lounge neighboring a Dunkin’ Donuts. It almost felt as if Warsaw had lost its culture after WWII and had replaced it with other cultures, as if to suggest that other cultures are more modernized than the one it had lost. After all, we were in the new part of the city, and nothing screams keeping up with the times like international food chains.
It wasn't long before we had to hop back onto the bus to go to the airport. We said our farewells to tour guide Rabbi Yitzhak and collectively navigated bag check, security, and border check before finally boarding the plane.
As the plane tipped its nose to the sky, I gazed out of the window at the light. Warsaw faded from my view as we rose higher and higher above the earth. Like a butterfly or a bird, we freely flew through the blue.
Soon after, the blue began to fade. Pink and orange scorched the sky. And then, after a while, it was black.
The plane continued to push through the darkness, and despite some turbulence, we successfully reached our final destination.
Groggy and worn down, we rose from our seats and stepped into our own country.
It feels so good to be home, but there is no time to rest. Not only because I've got piles of homework to do, but because I have a job to do.
Having experienced Poland, having seen ghettos and death camps and cemeteries, and having buried bones, it is now my responsibility to share what I have learned. The moment we forget all that transpired with the Holocaust, such a tragedy will happen again. And this just cannot be.
I write so that I can share stories and meaning from my own experiences with other people. There is so much that we can learn from each other, and sharing our knowledge with others is so important.Soon, there will be no more Holocaust survivors. It will be the responsibility of the last generation who has spoken to them, my generation, to tell their stories. I have chronicled these past 7 days so that all that I have experienced, all that happened in the Holocaust, and all of the Holocaust stories will be remembered and so that we can actively prevent repetition of our fateful past. Remembering is the only way that we can stay out of the darkness. #neverforget