Guests From that fire which marked your charred and tortured body
We carried a torch which lights our souls
We lit with it the flame of freedom
We carried it to battles for our land
Translation: L.V. Snowman
Inspired by the words of this poem, WIZO Israel sent a delegation on a mission to Poland. Led by WIZO Israel Chairperson Gila Oshrat, the mission included WIZO Israel executives, chairmen, managers and WIZO volunteers from across Israel.
The mission to Poland served to both honor a thousand years of Jewish history in Europe as well as commemorate the once vibrant WIZO Poland Federation that was annihilated alongside Polish Jewry in the Holocaust. The delegation visited the cities of Warsaw, Lublin, Krakow and Lodz, as well as synagogues, cemeteries, and the Madjanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps. The group also attended a memorial service at the Radagast train station in Lodz, the site of the deportation of Lodz Jewry, where the delegation adorned memorial sites and monuments with WIZO wreaths.
One of the services which focused especially on heroic women in the Holocaust was especially meaningful for the group. One highlight from this ceremony was the group's entrance to Birkenau , where the women entered the camp signing the 'Partisan Song' one of the chief anthems of the Holocaust, and waving both Israeli and WIZO flags. Other partcipants were visibly moved by the service.
Throughout the course of the trip, Gila Oshrat described the fate of WIZO's Polish Federation and its important work throughout World War Two, sharing portions of letters from the federation that had been preserved in the WIZO archives in Jerusalem, the details of which surprised and moved other participants on the mission.
One of the group's most exciting meetings was held in Krakow, where the delegation had the opportunity to meet Paulina, a member of the Righteous Among the Nations. The group also met with Israeli Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner and members of the local Jewish community, during which they examined the possibility to relaunching WIZO activities in Poland. With these sentiments, the group returned from the trip, full of memories and impressions, and motivated to put their experiences to good use.
Gila Oshrat explained, "We travelled to Poland for a trip to honor the one thousand years of glorious Jewish history that was destroyed, with the Holocaust constituting one important and meaningful segment of this history. We returned from Poland as different women. This was a difficult experience, one which both moved us and shook us to our cores. I believe that each and every one of us must visit Poland in order to witness the magnificence that once was this Jewish community and to visit the concentration camps. Only on a trip like this can one sense the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of six million men, women and children. To comprehend that we'll never be able to truly understand that anyone who ever entered Auschwitz would never leave there, and that someone who never had to enter will never enter. Following the Holocaust, this mission has strengthened our identity as the Jewish people and the strengthened our recognition for the need for a national Jewish homeland. While this mission to Poland commemorates the Jewish communities that were destroyed and the WIZO federation that was annihilated, the goal of this journey is to spread the seeds of WIZO in Poland and to ensure that the continuity of the Jewish people will never be broken."