Prowling my world, camera in hand

19 July 2023

Week 25: Lublin

Filed under: — Administrator @ 13:46

From the 19st to the 23rd of June I was in Lublin, Poland, invited to give a couple of lectures at the international summer school of the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University there. This was a very important trip for me, not only for professional reasons, but also personal: Lublin is the origin of my family, my father and my uncle in Florida were born there, part of a large family, most of which perished during the Holocaust. I had visited Lublin only once before, 5 years ago, and that for only a couple of hours while passing through; now I would have time to properly explore the city with so much of our family’s history.

I arrived in Lublin via Milan in the afternoon of the 19th. I got the VIP treatment from my hosts who met me at the airport and took me to my hotel in the centre. Afterwards, they showed me around the city, especially the area near the university. Among the places we visited was the Centre for Meeting of Cultures, an impressive facility containing galleries, a theatre, a music hall and other cultural activities:

In the evening I was on my own and explored the central part of the city, centered on the Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, an attractive pedestrian street with fountains, bars and restaurants, very much the place where the locals come to enjoy themselves:

Candy store on Krakowskie Przedmieście:

People and dogs enjoyed the fountains on the warm June evening:

One of the most striking features of Krakowskie Przedmieście is the Vilnius-Lublin Portal, inaugurated in 2021. A large circular screen stands in Lublin, showing a live feed from a central location in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, and in Vilnius there is an identical screen showing Lublin’s Krakowskie Przedmieście. The idea is to symbolise the long-standing connection between the two countries, and in particular the two cities–the union of Poland and Lithuania that endured until Poland’s dismantling by hostile powers in the late 18th century, was signed in Lublin in 1569:

Especially children are thrilled by the idea of waving to people in a city 600 km to the north-east:

The next morning I had some free time to explore the history of Lublin, or rather the aspects of it of personal interest to me. I walked towards the Grodzka Gate, which used to separate Lublin’s Jewish quarter (home to 1/3 of the city’s inhabitants) from the Christian one. On the way, I passed this dilapidated building which was about to be renovated and converted into modern apartments and offices. This is very much a picture of the new Poland:

I passed this old gate, called Brama Rybna (“Fish Gate”):

Shortly afterwards, I arrived at the Grodzka Gate. On the right is an organisation called TeatrNN, an outfit founded in 1992 with the mission of preserving the history of Jewish Lublin. This is where I was going:

But first, I stopped at 11 Grodzka Street, today a youth centre, but before the war an orphanage to which some poor Jews sent their children even though they were not orphans–but the parents were so poor that the children could have better nutrition and generally a better life here than at home:

The orphanage came to an end one day in March 1942, as explained on this memorial plaque. And one of the children murdered that day was called Natan Wajsman, my father’s younger brother, who was 14 at the time (I am named after him):

Then I entered TeatrNN and met the wonderful people who work there. The amazing thing is that they are regular Polish people, not Jewish, and have no personal connection to the victims of the Holocaust. They are just good, decent people who want to honour and preserve the memory. This lady spent more than 1 hour showing me around. Here, she points out various interesting buildings (none of which exists today) on a photo of pre-war Lublin:

Here we are in the file room. Each file folder corresponds to a particular street and contains a listing of its buildings, information about the inhabitants and other information. We were looking for Krawiecka Street (“Taylor Street”) where my father once lived:

We did find this drawing of the house at Rynek 10, where my uncle lived as a child. Today he is a retired doctor in Florida:

My last photo from TeatrNN is a view of Lublin Castle; to the right, the grassy area used to be Krawiecka Street. When the Nazis had emptied Lublin’s ghetto, most of its streets were levelled:

In the afternoon I met up with my host, a patent lawyer called Kinga who is also involved with the university where I was going to lecture the next day. Kinga and her husband (also a lawyer) spent the afternoon taking me to places that I had indicated I would like to visit that were not walking distance from the centre. Among them was the old Jewish cemetery, with graves dating back to the 16th century:

The next day I spent at the university, and on Thursday morning Kinga picked me up at my hotel and drove me to the bus station from where I was taking a bus to Warsaw airport, a couple of hours away, and my flight home. While waiting, I photographed one of the very few remaining structures from the Jewish quarter, a communal well:

Before boarding the bus, I took a peek at the open-air market next to the bus station. Then I got on the bus, went to Warsaw airport, and flew home:

At home, I was greeted by the Magic Cactus:

I resumed my usual activities, which on Friday included stopping for a beer on the beach and looking at the local wildlife:

On Saturday, my wife invited some of our friends for one of the long lazy lunches, starting at 2-3 p.m. and continuing well into the evening. This is one of her star dishes, involving potatos, chorizo, chicken and a type of pickled spicy pepper called guindilla:

She also made an excellent appetiser involving courgette, cod, and a lot of work:

Grilled sardines–a local delicacy:

On Sunday morning I got on my bicycle, as did others:

I stopped at the cemetery in Busot, located on a hill above the village:


The departed souls certainly have a great view:

Finally, in the afternoon I went to the centre to see if there were traces from burning of the Hogueras the night before. But by then almost everything was cleaned up and removed. Some volunteers were doing final cleaning on the pedestrian central reservation on our main shopping street:

More photos from Lublin can be seen here.

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