Chocolate and Rain in Krakow

Today didn’t go exactly as planned, but flexibility is part of the plan.  Our original plan was to have a free day in Krakow after visiting the Schindler Museum, but when we got to the museum shortly after opening time, we discovered that we would have to purchase tickets that were timed for entry over two hours later.  So, we hoped a tram back to the center of town, bid goodbye to Betty, who had to take a train back to Białystok, and went  to the center of Krakow for an hour.  This gave us a little time to shop and to scope out the area for a more extended visit tomorrow.  Then we hopped a tram back to the Schindler Museum (after a bit of uncertainty about which tram number and which stop we needed to find) while a bit of a thunderstorm rolled through the city, followed by occassional periods of light rain off and on throughout the day.

The Schindler Museum commemorates the occupation of Krakow by the Nazis and the work of Oskar Schinder to protect Jews.  Schindler, raised with the anti-Semitism of the time, only gradually took on the role of a protector of the Jews, but when he did so, the extent to which he used his factory (which made enamel pots) and his business acumen was incredible.  It was sobering to see pictures of the Krakow Ghetto which sealed over 15,000 Jews into an area that had once held only 3,000 people in the Jewish district.  There were between 60 and 80 thousand Jews in Krakow prior to the invasion of 1939.  The area  designated for the Jewish Ghetto was literally bricked closed overnight.  Signs were placed around it stating, “The Jews – lice – typhus fever” and “Beware of typhus fever – avoid the Jews.”  Jews were made to wear white armbands with a yellow Star of David, and had to carry documentation about their ethnicity and work status.  The museum showed gut-wrenching photos of Jews hanged or shot in public, and stories of children being thrown from windows in homes into trucks in the street below, little caring whether the children were harmed, and mothers and children being forcibly separated from each other and taken to death camps.  It was truly sickening.  And yet, there were glimmers of hope as we saw the many ways the Oskar Schlinder manipulated the system to save many Jews from certain death.

We then met up with Don at a Christian coffee shop and enjoyed a late lunch, after which we went back to Graceland to help Polish students practice conversational English; Don and Dr. E. worked with adults, while the rest of the Malone team worked with younger students.  It is the contact with people, whether for a short time or longer, that has really brought the most joy and learning during our time here.  And it is really neat to know that we are helping the school create an atmosphere where people can openly discuss the gospel.

We left Graceland and went downtown to a E. Wedel store.  Wedel is the premier Polish chocolatier, and has been serving chocolate since 1851.  While they are known for their truffles and chocolates, the specialty of the restaurant is hot chocolate.  But this is not like any chocolate you’ve ever had – think of it as being like a cup of melted chocolate bars.  Certainly not the healthiest thing we have had on this trip, but a unique and pleasurable experience – except perhaps for Ezra, who managed to dump his chocolate in his lap!  So, pour yourself a nice warm chocolate bar as we begin to wind down our time in Poland and look towards home.

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