Report #16 about Roberta Books and Marysia Galbraith’s trip to meet Polish partners in preparation for the ADJCP‘s memorial visit to central Poland.
Chodecz, September 15
We met Irena Grabowska and Joanna Modrzejewska of the Brotherhood of Lovers of the Chodecz Region (BMZCh, Bractwo Miłośników Ziemi Chodeckiej) in a restaurant called Stara Gospoda located at Plac Kościuszki in the center of town. We ate large squares of homemade chocolate cake with tiny spoons while Irena and Joanna told us about their organization, which was founded in 2009. Irena is the vice president. The president, her husband Grzegorz, had another commitment that afternoon.
Over the years, the BMZCh has organized a variety of activities as part of their effort to inform residents about the fate of the Jewish community during World War II, including trips to the death camp at Chełmno nad Nerem where most Jews from this region perished.
They told us the prewar Jewish population of Chodecz was comprised of craftspeople and traders mostly, though there was one doctor. The BMZCh has done research on Jewish survivors, including Roman Halter, a sculptor and artist who was born in Chodecz in 1927. He wrote a memoir called Roman’s Journey. Other Jewish survivors include Sala Lubieńska, whom they have interviewed. Her two daughters visit sometimes. In addition, three sisters named Nadja, Henia, and Sala Pinczewska all went to Australia. The son of one of the sisters, Jeff Katz, has visited from Australia.
Their most tangible efforts have involved the preservation of the Jewish cemetery. We drove a short distance to see it. In 2011, the BMZCh mounted a sign outlining the history of the cemetery and the Jewish community, written in English on one side and in Polish on the other. The English side remains in good shape, but the Polish side is cracked and faded from time, sunshine, and weather.
In 2012, they added a commemorative boulder up the slope near the center of the cemetery.
They placed a row of large stones to prevent cars from driving on the cemetery grounds, and they have also planted small trees along the edge of the cemetery nearest the dirt road, careful to avoid the actual cemetery terrain. A very recent project involved painting the border stones along the path to the commemorative boulder. Irena was not sure that painting the stones bright white was the best idea, but it demonstrates continued efforts to care for the Jewish cemetery.
The next project the organization hopes to realize is a commemorative wall that will incorporate the few tombstone fragments they have recovered. They have drawn up architectural plans and received the necessary approvals from government agencies, but they haven’t been successful in obtaining funding for the project.
Organization president Grzegorz Grabowski sent links to reports on BMZCh activities:
*This is how one of our first works related to commemorating the Jewish cemetery, cleaning and placing a stone with a commemorative tablet.
*Here we place large stones in the cemetery terrain so nobody can drive on the terrain.
*We celebrate All Saints Day every year, this is probably in 2013.
*We planted a seedling grown from an unusual oak–called Kiejstut from Zbijwa
*In recent years part of the materials our Brotherhood has published on Facebook. Please take a look at our recent publications.