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Krakow, Poland: Pre-Easter, Post-War

This post continues a week of daily posts on Global Mom’s recent family trip to Poland.

Decorated carraige horses on Rynek Główny, Krakow's marketplace dating from the 13th century

Decorated carraige horses on Rynek Główny, Krakow’s marketplace dating from the 13th century

On the train from Warsaw to Krakow, our family lucked out. We shared our compartment with Jan, a native Pole who has lived the last three decades in the UK. For three uninterrupted hours, I’m afraid I gave the man no rest by interviewing him about everything from world politics, World Ward II and post World War II reconstruction, Jews in Poland, and Catholicism in Poland, to Poland’s best foods, best cities, best music, best sites, and details of his family history. (He was interested in genealogy, a point of common interest).

It was only after all this questioning and note-taking, that I realized we should get footage of this to share with you, and so here’s a brief segment of our time spent talking about his family, whose profile arcs over pre and post WWII. Jan’s now-105-year-old mother experienced the length of it while his father spent seven years in a Prisoner of War camp. As Jan explained (but you might not be able to hear too well; trains are noisy), his father left one morning, telling his mother he’d be home by dinner. Seven years later, that father returned, having spent nearly all of those seven years in prisoner of war camps. “Things got better,” Jan said at the end of this part of the conversation, “after Stalin died.”

I think we all agree on that.

As Jan had promised, Krakow felt warmer than the thermometer measured. Even with a cold front dragging its stiff arm across all of southern Poland, the town square seemed to smile in daffodilled defiance. Easter decorations hung everywhere.

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Students gathered. People ate at the open stalls. The market was busy.

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Music played from the many cafés. And every hour on the hour, a trumpeter stood in the taller of the two towers of St. Mary’s Basilica, cracking the air with the sounds of a traditional tune called the heynal. The heynal links to legend, I was told. It always ends abruptly and midphrase, a tradition holding from the 13th century, when a trumpeter warning of the Mongol attack, took an arrow to the neck.

Carriages in front of St. Mary's Basilica, which is famous for its elaborate altarpiece by Veit Stoss

Carriages in front of St. Mary’s Basilica, famous for its two mismatching towers and its elaborate altarpiece by Veit Stoss

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Towers of St. Mary's Basilica

Towers of St. Mary’s Basilica

The central Cloth Hall on the Market Place with statue of the Polish Romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz

The central Cloth Hall on the Market Place with statue of the Polish Romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz

Statue of Adam Mickiewicz, considered the Goethe or Lord Byron of Poland

Statue of Adam Mickiewicz, considered the Goethe or Lord Byron of Poland

The Renaissance Cloth Hall with interior arcade

The Renaissance Cloth Hall on Rynek Główny with interior arcade

Upon the Nazi invastion, the Market Place was given a German name, Old Market, then became Adolf Hitler Platz

Upon the Nazi invasion, the Market Place was renamed as Old Market and then  Adolf Hitler Platz

The city was overtaken, and many of its cultural landmarks ransacked or decimated.

The city was overtaken, and many of its cultural landmarks ransacked or decimated.

The Adam Mickiewicz statue was toppled

The Adam Mickiewicz statue was toppled

Palac Bonerowski, which stands on the Market Place, a noble residence-turned-21st century hotel...

Palac Bonerowski, which stands today on the Market Place, a noble residence-turned-21st century hotel…

...became a backdrop for the Nazi presence. . .

…became a backdrop for the Nazi presence.   Note the statue in the lower lefthand corner

The same statue stands in the same place today,having  witnessed many changes

The same statue stands in the same place today, having witnessed many unspeakable events

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Upwards of 15,000 Jews were forced to live within the  ghetto, from which they were then deported to concentration or extermination camps.  The following four images courtesy of the Oskar Schindler Factory museum

Upwards of 15,000 Jews were forced to live within the Krakow ghetto, from where they were then deported to concentration or extermination camps. This and the following three images courtesy of the Oskar Schindler Factory museum

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Families crammed into small living spaces – normally four families per apartment – if they were fortunate enough not to end up living on the street. These plaster figures depict the shared living quarters. Oskar Schindler Museum

If they were lucky enough to not live in the streets, families crammed into small living spaces, normally four families per apartment.  These plaster figures depict the shared living quarters. Oskar Schindler Museum

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Oskar Schindler, whose enamelware and metalware factory served to employ (and save from extermination) several  hundred Krakow Jews. Schindler's writing desk.

Oskar Schindler, whose enamelware and metalware factory served to employ (and save from extermination) several hundred Krakow Jews.

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Retracing the steps of the Jewish ghettos and deportation routes

Retracing the steps of the Jewish ghetto and deportation routes

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St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral

St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral

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Easter snowfall

Easter snowfall

Interior courtyard of Wawel, Krakow's royal castle

Interior courtyard of Wawel, Krakow’s royal castle

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Leonardo da Vinci's Lady With an Ermine, whose symbolism and complex history is almost as intriguing as the beauty itself.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady With an Ermine, which hangs in a private room in Wawel, and whose symbolism and complex history are almost as captivating as the beauty of the painting itself.

Leaving Krakow. . .

Leaving Krakow. . .

For Auschwitz and Birkenau...

. . .for Auschwitz and Birkenau…

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

2 thoughts on “Krakow, Poland: Pre-Easter, Post-War

  1. It must have taken a long time to go through all your pictures and edit them down. I really enjoyed seeing them.

    Was that Parker in the one photo? Towards the bottom.

    Nancy

    • Nancy, Yes, only in the last month have I begun editing photos in earnest. Otherwise, I was just slapping them up on the screen. Now I’m trying to do the subject matter justice by brightening and straightening when I can.

      And Parker’s in none of these photos, since they were taken so recently. That tall boy with the Polsak beanie standing next to the small medieval door is our Luc William.

      Thanks for the visit, I know it takes your time…M

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