Today is the Catholic holiday, All Saints Day, the time to honor the dead. Customarily, Poles visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their family members. During the day, chrysanthemums in all shades adorn tombstones. At night, candle lanterns on graves make the cemeteries glow. Twinkling hillsides can be seen from far away.
I’m pleased to see that some Poles also remember Poland’s now-absent Jewish population on November 1. I’ve seen this in Warsaw and in Lutowiska. And here is a photo Jacek Koszczan posted on Facebook today showing the candle lanterns on the commemorative monument at the town of Dukla’s Jewish cemetery.
He and other citizens of Dukla made the trip out to the cemetery to light a candle for the dead. In this, I see an expression of honor that transcends religious difference.
Jacek has done a great deal to reassemble the memory of Jewish life in Dukla. In fact, he was honored last month by the Polin Museum for his work. The Polin website explains, “Jacek Koszczan is the founder and director of the Organization for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in the Dukla Region–Dukla Shtetl. His work involves both obtaining and archiving knowledge about the Jews of Dukla and its surroundings, as well as educational activities. Jacek Koszczan is the initiator and builder of a monument commemorating the 70th anniversary of the murder of Dukla’s Jews, the volunteer caretaker of the Jewish cemeteries, mass grave, as well as the ruins of the Dukla synagogue. Thanks to his efforts and knowledge, he succeeded in facilitating the honoring of two Dukla-region families with the medal for the Righteous among Nations.”
All in all, Jacek has been instrumental in the return of the memory of Jews to his community. I have been impressed by his energy, enthusiasm, and generosity. For him, this is a labor of love–for his community, for the memory of those who suffered, and for humanity in the face of evil.