"The Grodzka Gate – Circles of Memory"
Since 2007 the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre has been implementing the program “Lights in the Darkness – the Righteous Among the Nations”. In order to gain a better understanding of the importance and origin of this project, one needs to be aware of what happened in Lublin during the last war.
In 1939, there were 120 000 citizens in Lublin including nearly 43 000 Jews. During the Second World War, the Nazis slaughtered the Jewish population of Lublin and destroyed the Jewish district. Majdanek, the German death camp located near Lublin, became a symbol of those times.
After many years, the citizens of Lublin forgot their Jewish neighbours. However, is it possible to live in Lublin and not be interested in the culture and history of the population once constituting one third of all citizens? After all, the history of Jews living in Lublin is an integral part of the city's history.
In the 90s, when we commenced our activities in the Grodzka Gate, which used to be a passage between the Christian and Jewish district, we also did not know the history of Lublin's Jews. We were not aware of the fact that the huge empty area near the Gate is all that remained of the Jewish town. In the place that used to be full of houses, synagogues and streets, now is an enormous parking lot, new roads and lawns. A considerable part of this area has been covered with concrete. Under this concrete shell, the foundations of Jewish buildings and the memory of the Jewish town are buried.
Today the Gate leads to the non-existent town – the Jewish Atlantis – and is a place, where - like in an Ark of Memory – old photographs, documents and testimonies can be preserved for posterity. This emptiness near the Gate became a natural place for the Theatre and its artistic activities nurturing the memory of the past, but also a place of mourning the Holocaust’s victims.
Czesław Miłosz in his statements stressed, several times, most emphatically, that after the Holocaust, all that is left is soil, which is “sullied, blood-stained, desecrated”. Jan Błoński, giving comments to Miłosz’s statement, writes in his famous essay, The Poor Poles look at the Ghetto:
“(…) blood has remained on the walls, the soil soaked up blood, whether we want it or not. Our memory and our very selves are also soaked up with this blood. So we must cleanse ourselves, and this means we must see ourselves in the light of truth. Without such an insight, our home, our soil, we ourselves, will remain tainted. This is […] the message of our poet. [This blood] calls for remembrance, prayer, and justice. (…) That collective memory which finds its purest voice in poetry and literature cannot forget this bloody and hideous defilement. It cannot pretend that it never occurred.(…) The desecration of Polish soil occurred and we have not yet discharged our duty of seeking expiation. In this graveyard, the only way to achieve this is to face up to our duty of viewing our past truthfully”
This book entitled The Grodzka Gate - Circles of Memory, describes the following activities of the Centre: “One Land - Two Temples”, “Letters to the Ghetto”, “Mystery of Light and Darkness”, “Poem of the Place”, “Memory of the Righteous – Memory of Light” Mystery, “Memory of the Righteous – Memory of Light” exhibitionand those connected with Majdanek: “Day of Five Prayers” and “The Primer” exhibition.
In revealing the past of our town, we were touching the tough and painful art of remembering. The book is an evidence of the way that we have gone through. The way which has led us to the project “Lights in the Darkness – the Righteous Among the Nations”.
Translation: Karolina Deputch, Anna Iwan, Katarzyna Kawa, Magdalena Kawa, Jarek Kubiak, Paweł Niedźwiedź, Weronika Nowacka, Renata Szredzińska, Elżbieta Zabłocka, Aleksandra Zińczuk. Proofread of English: Jan Cudak, Jack Dunster. Consultation: Elżbieta Petrajtis O'Neill.