Notes on a Warsaw Residency, 2

image Shall I write about the storks clacking their beaks high in their nests on the road to Sejny? And in Krasnogruda, near the border with Lithuania, the hare that bounded across the road and straight out of Milosz’ beautiful poem? In the candle-light coffee-house, Song of Porcelein Cafe, in the basement of what was once Milosz’ childhood summer home, surrounded by Polish listeners from surrounding villages, I speak with my host–Krzysztof Czyzewski– about my “time-based” work, this ten year journey to learn about the actual Poland, our shared history, to “re-imagine” the “Poland in my head.” image Three institutions were just a dream when i began this project– the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews was just an idea among some people in an office; the House of Words in Lublin was just some printing presses in a basement; and the poet Czeslaw Milosz’ childhood estate, Krasnogruda, near the border with Lithunania,was a dilapidated forestry hut in the woods. What dynamic visionary enclaves have sprung from those ideas and on this 2015 trip to Poland, I pay a visit to each one for book talks and conversation. image Now POLIN in Warsaw is a magnificent museum chronicling 1000 years of Jewish history in Poland; Krasnogruda is a magnificent conference center for poets and bridge-builders from around the world; the House of Words in Lublin occupies the whole of that building and thrums with historical necessity and present-day creative energy– master printers, school children, archivists, book binders, paper-makers. Here, local children learn the (almost) lost traditions of their city, in a place where the Nazis murdered the staff of the printing houses, the presses are rolling. The good people of the Grodzka Gate scrutinize old photographs for the clues to the identities of the murdered Jews of their town– to honor them, to restore their names. “This is not an exhibit anymore,” the founder, Tomasz Pietresewicz tells me, “this is a library of lives” and Tomasz and his colleagues are “the reliable workers of memory.” image In Lublin, after my talk, in the Brama Grodzka Cafe, musicians pulled out traditional Polish fiddles, bass and drum, tables were pushed away, shots of Zubrovka appeared and dancers whirled and sang and stamped their feet. There is joy in the room; I can feel it pulsing through my body. image In Sejny, at 5 AM the morning after my talk, too wired to sleep, I walk to the edge of the lake, looking towards Lithuania, and watch the clouds that roil across from Lithuania to Poland, from Poland to Lithuania. Two loons on the water and five flying cranes silhouetted overhead in the dawn light. Tonight, back in Warsaw… I accompany Joanna Klass, my indefatigable Warsaw host, to a small alternative space called XS for an improbable and rigorous discussion/practicum on the subject of LAUGHTER which is, as we all know, beneficial, contagious, and sometimes– even hard work. OK! and onwards to Krakow. image[drawing from POLIN Muzeum confersation by Mariusz Tarkawian]

5 Responses to “Notes on a Warsaw Residency, 2”

  1. Hi, Louise.

    You’ve done amazing work in Poland these last 10 years, mazel tov! I envy your upcoming trip to Krakow and hope to visit again someday.

    Not sure if you received my recent email. I’ll be attending the anniversary event in Dachau at the end of the month, then traveling to Prague for several days. Do you have any plans to be in either city in the next few weeks?

    I’d love to see you!


    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone


  2. Bette Levy Says:

    Gripping! Vital for every generation, but especially the youngest!


  3. shalom louise, i am…honoring your “tikun olam” work – preparing the world…my beloved Father, willis samuel steinitz was born in poland…we will be in our cali condo in oakland this summer…stay in touch, dear friend…and may the journey within and beyond be revealing & healing, with LOVE, ahaha


  4. Susan Stone Says:

    Beautifully written Louise. Just returned from performing in TeatreNN last week at a festival of stories. Rafal gave me a private tour of House of Words and I was very moved. 4 days in Lublin with others from France, Spain, Italy and Poland (with translation of my stories and theirs, on a screen)
    “Bringing the Stories Home: Jewish tales From Poland”. So much more to say. I love knowing you understand.
    Now I have been asked to write an article for Storytelling Journal (on Justice and peace) I’ll keep in touch for your two cents!


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