Reflection by Michael Shaughnessy

I’m currently in Poland with Classrooms Without Borders, working with teachers, students, members of the Jewish community, refugees from Ukraine, and cultural educators to compare Poland yesterday and today based on themes such as a thousand years of Jewish life in Poland; dilemmas surrounding life and death and bearing witness to genocide.

In the Jewish Historical Institute, a painting stopped me in my tracks. Mieczysław Wejman’s 1944 work entitled “in the air-raid shelter” “W schronie” is a stark reminder of the 4 million refugees in Poland right now and the importance of making connections to the past to inform our knowledge of the present.

“The artist’s works in the years 1943–1944, between the July 1942 “Gross Aktion” (Great Action or Operation, namely the deportation and mass murder of Jews from the Jewish quarter), the Ghetto Uprising (April 1943) and the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising (August 1st 1944) became one of the most important Polish artistic documents recording the German occupation – especially the Holocaust,’ writes Dr. Piotr Rypson, curator of the exhibition”

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