A Travellerspoint blog

Czestochowa & Auschwitz

...and the Black Madonna


We are leaving Warsaw today and heading south to Czestochowa, specifically known for the famous Pauline monastery of Jasna Gora, the home of the Black Madonna painting. Millions of people from all over the world do a pilgrimage every year to visit the Shrine to the Virgin Mary. It is said to have miraculous powers. It truly is amazing to see this beautiful monastery as well as all the priests, monks, deacons, nuns and thousands of people who are here today with us. Some are sobbing, others praying, chanting, singing, preaching....its hard to put into words...I am just experiencing it...as it is.


Of course, the tourist element is ever present...which leads me to the gift shop. If you purchase something there is a monk there who blesses it for you. People are stocking up on the Holy Water, Crosses, photos of the Black Madonna, statutes, candles, bibles...you name it.

The grounds are beautiful.

Now we are heading for the town we've all come to visit....Oswiecim- where the Nazis built Auschwitz, their largest concentration and death camp. We had friends and neighbors who were either sent their themselves or their families and friends were. Some perished while others lived to tell the stories of the horrors of Hitler's extermination efforts. My father was a watchmaker from Switzerland who made his way to the United States and bought the jewels for the watches from a diamond dealer. Through the years my father and this diamond dealer named Louie became friends and my family and I learned that before Louie and his brothers were taken to Auschwitz, he watched his parents being shot to death in front of his house. He told the story that a few nights before there was word in the town that Hitler's soldiers were close. Fear, of course, set in. Louies family were diamond dealers and now had to try to hide the diamonds and hope they would not be found. Louies father and uncle dug a trench in the top of the front door and sprinkled the diamonds into that trench. They sealed it with mud. A few days later the soldiers came and had the Louies father, uncle and neighbors literally dig their graves. They ordered some men and women including Louies parents to step into the graves and then shot them in front of the children. Louie, along with his brothers and other men, women and children from that town were taken and put on the train that brought them to Auschweitz. He and one brother lived through it and were libertated in 1945. After coming to the US and having been here a few years Louie returned to his childhood home as an homage to his family. The town was in ruins and so was his home....but....the door. Still attached to the house. Worn and weathered but survived "the storm". Louie dug out the top of the door and....yup...you guessed it...all the diamonds-- still there. He gathered them up and came back to the US...quite a bit wealthier. Louie lived well into his 80's and enjoyed a nice life here in America. He and my dad were friends until the day he died.

My parents also owned a chalet in the country. Our neighbors Ann and Bruno lived right next door. We went skiing on the weekends and went swimming at the lakes and hiking in the woods during the summer. All the Swiss, French and Austrians socialized on the weekends and holilday weeks ...fondue parties, apres ski parties, they played cards every weekend....you get the idea. Bruno was from the same area in Switzerland as my mom was. Ann was from Russia. She had a sister named Nadia. Both were artists but it was Ann who taught my mom to paint with a palet knife.
Ann was also a prisoner as a young girl in Bergen-Belsen. Her sister was in Dachou. Ann was young and strong so she was chosen to help in the most basic ways...only the slightly sick or injured in the camp. If they were able and strong enough...she saw to it that they were back on their feet and working as fast as possible. She described the conditions to be horrible. Beyond comprehension. She was liberated by a British Navel Officer who fell in love and married her. She was 16 at the time. He was very wealthy. She lived a "charmed" life, skiing all over the world, travelling, and this is when she started painting...she painted with a palet knife which creates a style similar to that of Van Gogh. One day Ann gets news that her husband was killed at sea. It made headlines. Ann is in her mid 20's now and alone once again. Inthemeantime, as this news is circulating Nadia sees a photo of Ann and realizes this is her sister. Through a series of different connections the sisters were reunited. Ann weathered her past much better than Nadia. Ann learned that Nadia had a very serious addiction to alcohol. She also learned, though...that Nadia also became an artist and loved to create her own works of art. She could not keep at it due to the alcoholism. Ann took Nadia to America and got the best help for her, set her up with a house and anything she needed. The was a time that Nadia showed improvement. During that time Ann and Nadia travelled and skiied. This is when Ann met Bruno. Bruno was a ski instructor who Ann hired as a guide to take her and Nadia ski touring through Switzerland. Well, as luck would have it, Ann and Bruno fell in love, moved to New York and the rest is history. Nadia also lived in New York where Ann continued to take care of Nadia for the rest of her life. She died in her mid 60's. Bruno was quite the ski instructor. Beside my mom and dad, Bruno had a big influence in honing my sister and my skiing techniques. Ann lived well into her 90's. Bruno passed in his late 70s. about 10 years after Ann.

These stories came to mind as I walked around and learned of the life behind these walls and fences. The one thing I noticed the entire time I was visiting is how quiet it was. With all the people visitng this camp, it was so quiet...a very solemn experience. We had a guided tour. Our tour guide was one of the interviewer of the prisoners after the liberation of Auschwitz. He has stories to tell...and to this day, with tears in his eyes, he still feels the same pain telling the stories today as he heard them years ago. Its not a place you picture for a vacation but it was quite an education. I think if I went back multiple times, I still wouldnt be able to grasp it all. It is definitely an experience everyone should have. This cannot ever happen again...ever.

Here are a few photos...745043a0-323a-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPGdf9b9c40-323a-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG6ac81eb0-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG564cbe00-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG888ef400-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG72154390-3241-11e9-9190-41e03af98fb7.JPG11daec10-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG0559c7e0-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPGdc19ac00-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG27845000-323c-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPGdc19ac00-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG442fca40-323c-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPGa637f630-323d-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPGf1a6cad0-323b-11e9-90f4-1db63c046ac2.JPG

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 15:03 Archived in Poland

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So happy to see you blogging again! This trip sounds like it brought back a lot of memories. Your neighbors' story sounds like the plot for your first novel. Touching and disturbing.

by teethetrav

I was thinking the same thing!! It took me awhile to finish up this blog, I know! Life! Getting ready for another birthday trip with my sis so stay tuned!! I’ve started writing “the bones” of the book. Very beginning stages. Also need to do lots of research!

by Linda Fluckiger

Sounds like you may need a return trip! I can't wait to read it!

by teethetrav

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