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Tykocin & the Lupachwa Forest (Day 2, 2017)

Reflections from Cincinnati Delegates Jonah Goldwasser & Josh Rosen…

The little shtetl of Tykocin was an eye opener for me. People can tell stories of their experiences in the holocaust and you can learn all about it in history books. But, once you’re actually there it’s a whole different perspective. I went into this shtetl not expecting much from it. Only to learn that the entire 1400 person Jewish population was wiped out in one day, it was the first shtetl taken by Nazi forces in Soviet territory. The forest of Lupachwa was heart wrenching. I didn’t have to walk into the forest to know that this was no ordinary forest. That a tragedy had happened there, that there was constant sadness and remembrance within the forest. As soon as I set foot off the bus, with the knowledge of the fact that we are on the same trail as these 1400 Jews from Tykocin and knowing that these were their last steps of life, I instantly felt overwhelmed. I began to tear up before we even took 10 steps into the forest. Once actually seeing the ditches which the Jews were executed like animals in, it became more surreal, and astonishing that a person, a human being was capable of this. It’s very hard to wrap my head around. When our guide, Peppi, read an excerpt from a Nazi soldier the words were chilling. “I thought of my two infants as I shot these infants.” And the fact that he said “I was nervous about the idea at first but after doing it a few times you become used to it.” There’s just nothing right about that, and the fact that he thought he was in the right is astounding.

-Jonah Goldwasser, Loveland HS

It is surreal for something as picturesque as Lupachwa to be forever tainted by the horrific acts that occurred there in 1941. Seeing the 3 different areas in which the 1,400 Jews of Tykocin were buried was devastating, as the Nazis ruthlessly murdered entire families in these 3 pre-dug pits. This breathtaking forest, where these same families would enjoy many activities such as picnics, is now a place of sorrow. The most emotional portion of this experience, in my eyes, was lighting a candle with a name of a family that was brutally murdered in Lupachwa. I think I speak for the whole group when I say that the names that were on our respective candles will be names that will stick with us for a long time, if not our whole life. After the candles were lit, we came together as a group and recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, in order to honor the lives of the 1,400 buried in Lupachwa, as no one in their family was able to do so. To conclude, even though we were all exhausted, I wouldn’t want out first day to have gone any different, as Tykocin and Lupachwa have already taught us so much and brought us closer together as a group.

-Josh Rosen, Sycamore HS

A quote that came to Jonah, in reflecting on this day and this trip:
“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry, nature a deep caring and respect for troublemakers, because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.” ~ Dalai Lama

Our words around the closing circle tonight:
in awe

During our journey, we’re sharing a few highlight photos per day in our daily blog posts, yet to see ALL of our photos (many per day), go to our shared album here.

The most important prayers on the walls of the temple in the Shtetl (small Jewish village)- as they didn’t have books. The temple was the center of spiritual life in the shtetl.
Peppi shows us a photo of boys in Cheder (tiny school, boys only, where they would start learning their Aleph-Bet, then torah, starting at age 3)
We followed this road from the Tykocin town square into the forest in complete silence, the same path that every Jewish man, woman and child of this town was forced to take on one day, to a spot where they were each shot into pre dug pits.
The last view that the Jewish children, women, and men of Tykocin had before they were shot. “Forest” is a word we’ll not hear the same way ever again.
A memorial candle for the Gold family, who perished in this forest on that fateful day.
Paying tribute to the hundreds of innocent Jews shot on top of one another, at their mass grave.
Memorial candles for individuals who perished here. It was important to us that we know their names and honor them specifically, as they had no family left to do so.
Cross training. Young woman exercising with dumbbells.

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