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Jewish Poland History Writer | Photo Gallery

My roots in the Polish villages

In September 2008, I traveled to Warsaw and my grandparents’ “shtetlach” northeast of Warsaw. While I was in Poland for less than a week, I felt oddly at home. Like I had come home.

My purpose for coming was to do research for a young adult novel that takes place in Zaromb (Yiddish) or Zaręby Koscielne (Polish). I needed to see the view from the marketplace, to see the Brok River that according to the village’s memorial book written by Holocaust survivors in 1947 surrounded Zaromb on three sides. I needed to hear the sounds.

I worked with a scholar and guide who has long been connected with the nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with, Jewish Records Indexing – Poland. She has a special appreciation of nineteenth century Jewish life in Poland. She not only met me at the Warsaw airport but drove me first to my grandmother’s town of Ostrów Mazowiecka (Ostrova in Yiddish) and then the 18 kilometers to Zaromb.

Seeing the past with my own eyes

When we arrived in Zaromb, my digital camera died. We bought some batteries from a small store in the market square, but they didn’t help. I borrowed a disposable camera from one of the elderly gentlemen serving as our local guides and when I finished with that, we took photos with a cell phone.

I saw the view from the marketplace. I saw where the synagogues, bath house, and Jewish school once stood. Our guide stood at the head of the market square and announced: “Here was Velvel Kilovich’s fish store. Here was Lev Frydman’s barber shop. Here was the inn. The water pump. The butcher. The police station and jail ” He took us to see the Brok. All we found was a cesspool. It was hard to believe that some 1600 Jews once lived in this place that now pretty much consisted of a market square and four streets.

I wondered what it must have felt like to live here when the village was vibrant, when it was in color instead of in black and white. In my grandfather’s day, the square—which now stood empty—would have been filled with horsedrawn carts and peddlers and peasants selling fruit, vegetables, poultry, fish, and even ribbons and books.

We walked down Fama Street, where our guide said all the Jewish artisans lived. My book said it was once called Yossel’s Street. My great-grandfather’s name was Yossel and he was a textile painter. I wondered whether he was the Yossel for whom the street was named. I studied each house we passed — which house might have been his?

I thought about all my grandfather left behind when he left Zaromb in 1913 for America (which subsequently caused his father to disown him).

My Home Is Gone — a Jewish Poland photo exhibit

The photos I took were shown at the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center in Bridgewater, New Jersey in May 2009. I’m happy to announce that the JCC of Metrowest in West Orange, New Jersey is giving me space to show the photos again from September 12 – October 31, 2010. The exhibit is called “My Home Is Gone - Remnants of Jewish Poland.”