Welcome to Polska!
After two intense days of study at both the Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, D.C.) and the Museum of Jewish Heritage (New York City), the fourteen of us Academy types and our fearless leader have arrived in Poland.
While I was cautioned to enter this program with a degree of “emotional preparedness”, I did not anticipate the depth of our discussions or the wide scope of our topics. Guided by both scholars and survivors, our four days in the States were spent studying mass atrocity prevention, genocides in Darfur and Rwanda, sexual violence during the liberation of Holocaust victims, the structure and rise of the Nazi party and so much more. My point being that those four days were only the prologue of this journey, and yet I have already explored 20th century history more deeply than all twelve years of pre-Academy schooling, combined. (My heart could not be happier.)
In Warsaw, we hit the tarmac running. It hasn’t taken long (<30 hours) for each of us to fall in love with this country and its people – most notably, our two amazing companions from the Auschwitz Jewish Center, Machik and Tomek.
To date, no idioms have been lost on these two gentlemen – the closest we’ve come to a language barrier was with “ruck-march”, thanks to our West Point cadets. While I have no doubt that their brief conversations with waitresses involve apologizing on our behalf, they patiently endure our mispronunciations and ensuing fits of laughter.