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Monday, July 8: Day 77 – Selfies and Chopin

We attended a free Chopin piano concert in Lazienki Park. We had arrived 30 minutes before the concert and joined a couple on one of the remaining available park benches. We didn’t speak but I noted that he was reading a book called Starting at Zero: His Own Story. This is an autobiography of Jimi Hendrix written AFTER his death. Now THAT’S talent.

The music was very soothing. The pianist, Thomas Perat from France, has a day job as an engineer and plays piano as a hobby.

Rob is holding my hand and I start to feel twitching. This is the first sign that he is falling asleep.

(Flashback Story) When Rob and I were first married and attending church, they would usher us up to the first row. That didn’t stop him from falling asleep. Rob would start twitching and his head would start bobbing and weaving. It was getting embarrassing. So I jabbed him in the side and said,

The pastor thinks that you are filled with the Spirit and has asked you to stand and lead us in prayer.

There was a beautiful summer breeze and lovely music so I let him sleep…but not without taking a selfie.

Now on my right is my Jimi Hendrix fan…

I guess Chopin piano music is good at putting men to sleep. (We went to the Chopin museum where they had listening booths. Several were asleep…all men!)

I wonder if he had that same affect long ago? Ambien, move over!!

Now that I am getting this selfie thing down, I got a picture with the composer himself.

At least he was awake. This is a downloadable app called Selfie with Chopin.

(Sidenote: I downloaded Google Arts and Culture and you can take a selfie of yourself and it searched art databases to see who you resemble in artworks. Apparently, I look like Anna van Montua who had her portrait painted.)

We wanted to find a place to view the World Cup. Rob and I were betting: I said that it would be packed. Rob said no one would be there. Rob wins. Nine people were at the Irish Pub and only six were watching! USA all the way!!

We take a tour of Jewish Warsaw and go to the POLIN Museum. The Jews greatly influenced Warsaw, but theirs is a tragic story.

Poland is translated into Hebrew as Polin means “here you should dwell”. By the 17th century Poland had the largest population of Jews in Europe. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century brought people to the cities and the secularization of the Jews who had to work long hours everyday which prevented them from Jewish religious observations. By WWII, the Jews were 30% of the population of Warsaw.

There is only one surviving synagogue in Warsaw. The Nazis used it to store pigs. For Jews, that was degrading. It was reconsecrated after the war.

To really understand what it was like to live in the ghetto of Warsaw, read poems such as Doorbells by Wladyslaw Szlengel.

A Jewish Council was set up by the Germans and led by Adam Czerniakow. He had the horrible task of logistics in the Warsaw Ghetto. Do you feed some and let others starve or do you feed everyone 250 calories/day and everyone starves?? Thirty percent of the population lived on 3% of the land area. He eventually committed suicide when he would not sign the order to start “resettlement”.

The Warsaw Ghetto actually consisted of two parts: the smaller southern ghetto and the larger northern ghetto where the worst conditions were. They were separated by an elevated walkway across Chlondna Street. This street was needed to go “through” the ghetto to transport German troops and supplies across the river.

Everyone who survived mentioned walking across the “Bridge of Sighs” as being the hardest: to be able to see, hear and smell freedom but not be able to experience it.

The deportation exhibit was moving. One could hear the names of 17 Warsaw streets read with a background of eerie sounding footsteps headed to the train station. 100 people per car. Two trains per day, every day for 2 months. It ended on Sept 21 Yom Kippur. All was eerily quiet.

They were on their way to death camps. Treblincka was small and only existed for a short time but exterminated 912,000. A Year in Treblincka (1944) written by Jankiel Wiernik is sure to be a difficult read written by one of the few that escaped this death camp.

Courier From Poland: The Story of a Secret State by Jan Karski was a thorough report on the Holocaust. His report told the world what was happening in 1942. A statue of him sits outside the POLIN Museum.

Eighty-seven percent of Warsaw was flattened. It is only fitting that the first structure built should be a memorial. We are proud that the Poles are survivors.

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