On May 20th, 2018 a group of students from two American universities, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte, came to Brzesko together with their 2 professors, Aaron Shapiro and Talli Aizenman Dippold, so that to join our efforts in preservation of the Jewish cemetery at Czarnowiejska street. For these students the trip to Poland was part of the course on applied history, Preserving Memory in Digital Age. They stayed in Brzesko till May 24, and we’ve managed to do a lot during these several days.
We’ve developed a strong cooperation with the local high school due to a short workshop at school (it included various activities which helped the students to integrate and understand each other better) and joint work at the cemetery;
US students had an opportunity to learn about the history of Brzesko and its Jewish community. We worked rather intensely for about 6 hours a day at the cemetery, and on Tuesday, May 22 we were joined by Brzesko students.
This work resulted in preparation of the cemetery for the future work of the Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries: we cleaned the area around the graves and now the majority of matzevot are easily accessible for indexing.
I also need to say, that this visit of the American group did have a significant impact in the city. People were asking, who these young people were and what they were doing in Brzesko; for me it was very moving to see US and Polish students working together joined in their efforts to preserve the memory of a tiny Jewish community in a small Polish town, to see these young people so inspired when discovering another matzeva with inscription that used to be completely covered with weeds. This project is not only about Jews who used to live in Brzesko, it’s also about educating young people in the most important values and giving back to the city the part of its history which was almost forgotten.
Students’ efforts were also appreciated by the city administration – City Mayor Grzegorz Wawryka invited the entire group for dinner, thanked them and expressed his hope for future cooperation. Luckily, that’s exactly what our plans are – the students will surely come at least in the next 2 years and hopefully, in the years to come as well.
Young people from the USA were in Brzesko only for 4 days, but when we said goodbye, students and their mentors couldn’t hide their tears. It seems that these shared experiences have really changed something, and I hope, not only for American students, but also for Bresko youth. Whenever we get engaged in selfless help, we open ourselves to the most important values, we learn to see good in others and add to the goodness of this world.
Anna Brzyska, May 30, 2018