Three years ago I saw “And Europe Will Be Stunned” at the Venice Biennale; it is a remarkable installation by Israeli artist, Yael Bartana; three utopian, idealistic videos, the most potent segment features a young leader in a vacant Warsaw stadium, pleading, urging three million Jews to return to Poland, a metaphor for the horrific outcome of WWII; even more notable, it was featured in the Poland Pavilion. Ms. Bartana’s problematic, provocatively perfect film was the catalyst for my “pilgrimage” to Poland.
Warsaw, “the greenest city in Europe” is stunningly beautiful: lush, tree-lined boulevards; a hundred parks infused with gushing, gorgeous fountains, scintillating scents; teasing, corkscrew paths tempting the pedestrian, cyclist to delve into its embracing tentacles, a wanderer’s aphrodisiac. Warsaw, like a phoenix, has risen from the ashes of WWII’s devastation; architects have superbly recreated the lost landscape; The Warsaw Uprising Museum features the herculean efforts of the Polish people, in a valiant but doomed battle against the Nazi’s (8/1/44-10/2/44); the archival footage of supreme ingenuity, godlike, valiant bravery, focusing on the struggling masses, inspires colossal respect.
Most admirable is Warsaw’s emphasis and education in the bleak and blotted demise of the Jewish population: tours of the remainder, reminder of the ghetto; monuments to the ghetto’s heroes (martyrdom of twenty-three year old Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the resistance); a Museum dedicated to the rich and multi-cultured history of the Polish Jews; the Jewish cemetery, resting place of over 250,000 Jews; tombs, ohels (tents) fading vestiges of greatness replaced by nothingness. Warsaw does not hide from its warts, in the words of A.E. Housman “better for man to see things as they are than to be ignorant of them.” Warsaw, accepting its speckled past, courageously, gallantly molding a better future.
To be continued…………..