March ‘68 – memories of Lublin emigrants
On the eve of the March 1968 anti-Semitic campaign, there were about 450 people of Jewish origin living in Lublin and the Lublin region. Around 120 of them left the region in the years 1968-1972.
How did people of Jewish origin who lived in Lublin at that time perceive the events referred to as 'March ‘68'? How did their farewell to their forefathers’ country look? What are their memories of that life-changing experience years later? What do they think about the decision made 45 years ago?
This text is an attempt to answer these and a number of other questions. The similarity of experiences makes many memories combine into a multifaceted collective story of the events that took place many years ago. The accounts quoted in this text come from the Archive of the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre’s Oral History Programme.
- The speeches of Władysław Gomułka – ‘like a thunder from a clear blue sky’
- Reception of the anti-Semitic campaign – ‘a crisis of confidence ensued’
- Effects of the anti-Semitic campaign – ‘they awoke people’s inner wolves’
- Reactions and attitudes of Poles
- Decision to leave Poland – ‘it was sad’
- Procedures – ‘you could take five dollars’
- The last days in Lublin and in Poland – ‘I will never return to this place’
- Customs clearance – ‘Here they left behind more than they had’
- Outside Poland – ‘we started a new life’
- Reflecting years later – ‘we are a little torn between’
The speeches of Władysław Gomułka – ‘like a thunder from a clear blue sky’
The anti-Semitic campaign in 1967/1968 was probably the first one in which the media, especially the television, were used to provoke, in a relatively short time, certain moods and attitudes among different groups in the society. Some of the most important themes present in the accounts of Polish Jews that left Lublin after those events concern the speeches of Władysław Gomułka, First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party. The impression that those speeches left was described using a popular Polish saying, comparing it to ‘a thunder from a clear blue sky’. The choice of words was not accidental. The speech given on 19 June 1967 left the Poles of Jewish origin afflicted, having questioned they self-definition in relation to Poland. From the memories of Miriam Kuperman:
Suddenly, the year 1968, like a thunder from a clear blue sky. All of a sudden, we heard that we were a fifth column, that we were free to go. It was horrible. We couldn’t turn the television on, we stopped watching television.
The Jewish community in Poland was wrested from its everyday, from a life that had a fixed course, and was violently thrown into the storm of political events. Years later, they were aware of having been just a pawn in the political games played above. Recalling the instigator of those events, they were distanced and sarcastic:
I’m satisfied, happy – and I wasn’t expecting this, leaving the country where I’d been born, where my parents had lived, where Jews had been living for a thousand years. As Hitler didn’t finish us off, others began doing that. Everyone tried to leave. I think that Gomułka should get a memorial because every Jew that left is an organized person. Every one of them was free, wasn’t persecuted, they were getting on as they wanted to. After we left, we missed that all very much.
Reception of the anti-Semitic campaign – ‘a crisis of confidence ensued’
Commenting on the perception of Gomułka’s speeches among Polish Jews, Józef Kliger, at the time an activist with the Związek Młodzieży Socjalistycznej (union of socialist youth), said:
All of us experienced a crisis of confidence towards the things that were happening in Poland. We were struck very hard by being fingered for being Jewish, by calling us traitors, a fifth column. (...) It was unpleasant, and you felt profoundly dependent on whims of this or that individual that was currently in power of some sort.
As it is natural in a situation of danger, the stigmatized group developed the sense of inner solidarity. For some of those who shared their memories, the experience of the whole community became the most important one, creating bonds within the group. Miriam Kuperman recalled:
First of all, those speeches of Gomułka. People began naming those who were of Jewish origin. Names of our Jewish mates that we knew from summer camps. Personally, we came out of it unaffected but lots of our friends’ parents got sacked. My dad had died earlier. If he were alive, being the manager at the power plant, he would probably have been fired. More and more things of that kind were happening, and it was clear that people were riding the wave of anti-Semitism. It was a comfortable situation for the authorities. But none of my Polish friends understood that. They would say: ‘What does it matter to you what they say on the radio, on TV, this wave will pass.’ No, I couldn’t come to terms with it.
The Holocaust forms a historic context that appears in these memories. Reflecting on the inexplicability of the situation, one interviewee said:
Why, it was twenty-something years after the war.
Another persecution of Jews – a group which had a vivid memory of the Holocaust, and which included Shoah survivors – led to an understandable anxiety regarding the future of individuals and of the entire community.
Effects of the anti-Semitic campaign – ‘they awoke people’s inner wolves’
The speech delivered by Gomułka on 19 June 1967 that included words about a fifth column prompted a rise of anti-Semitic attitudes in Poland. The anti-Semitic propaganda action reached its peak a few months later, on 11 March 1968.1 March and April brought a broad-scale campaign waged in the media, on workers’ rallies and meetings of organizations within the structure of the ruling party.
The case of the Marian Buczek Lublin leather industry works (Lubelskie Zakłady Przemysłu Skórzanego im. M. Buczka) is an example of the shift in the workers’ attitudes. During the anti-Semitic campaign, the leading political activists among the workers participated with zeal in tracking down the ‘Zionist elements’.2 The scale of the attitude shift at the plant is reflected in the memories of a son of a Lublin Jew: In 1957, they wanted to bring him [the father – ed.] into the workers’ union, and make him the chairman. He was very popular, had no problems at all, even though his name was Chaim, and he was a Jew.
Jakub Gorfinkel’s account on Lublin also confirms the notion of peaceful relations between Poles and Jews before 1967/1968: I had never felt anti-Semitism, and at that time I felt it, they awoke people’s inner wolves. Somehow, until then, I had never felt that there was anti-Semitism inside people, and all of a sudden, they opened the Pandora’s box. Then people began leaving. Not all accounts support this observation. Miriam Kuperman experienced acts of anti-Semitic behaviour towards herself before 1968. She recalled: Kids sometimes called me names but my neighbours never did. We were a rather well-known family in our quarter, the Kośminek. There were no Jews there at that time. My father was the manager of the power plant, so we were a well-known family. I think it was because we never concealed the fact that we were Jewish. Everyone knew it. There were signs of anti-Semitism. For example, children sometimes called me names, or when I got into an argument with someone, on some occasions they would snap a remark. My parents would send me to the so-called “health house” [Dom Zdrowia] – a kind of sanatorium, health resort. I wonder at their courage myself. It was before I even went to school. I didn’t have a Christian pendant, and every kid there had one. I remember being taken for a bath by two nurses. They asked where my pendant was. I replied: ‘Why, I don’t have one because I’m Jewish’. I never made it a secret. And I remember them saying: That’s impossible, you’d never have admitted it. So there were some signs but not on on a daily basis. It wasn’t some big issue. My father said: ‘They call you names? Hit them.’ He would say: ‘Beat them.’ And I did. I remember that I was a model student, and that didn’t go along with all that beating. I never got into fights. However, I remember that if someone said something, a single thing... I would stand up to them and fight. It wasn’t a daily life problem. But indeed, you had to deal with it from time to time. But it was never a life-affecting issue.
After what happened to students in Warsaw [in 1968], everything changed immediately – said Genowefa Hochman summarizing the situation of Polish Jews. Parents’ memories regarding March ‘68 contain information about what happened to their children at schools. Morris Wajsbrot said: Mass rallies were organized in Lublin in 1968. Children were taunted at school, called Jews. One evening, my older daughter went to a cinema with a friend. Some snotnose approached her and said: 'You, Jewess, you’re still here'. She didn’t know him, hadn’t provoked him; she had nothing to do with him. Every morning there were rallies broadcast on television, on the radio. Grown-up kids could already hear that. My younger daughter was sitting on a school bench with her hand on the table. A classmate sitting next to her said: 'You, take off that mangy Jewish hand'. I was persecuted and my children too, that’s why we left.
It’s difficult to draw any conclusions regarding the social scope of anti-Jewish attitudes based on the memories quoted above. It can be pointed out that in some social groups in Lublin – which have yet to be precisely defined in the course of further investigation – the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968 brought the desired effect. The following account from 2008, which, keeping in mind the little interest in the events declared by the speaker, captures the content of Gomułka’s speeches quite accurately, can serve as a proof: Many Jews emigrated from Lublin, and from Poland in general, at that time, but they [the authorities] also made some mistakes, for supposedly, during one of the congresses – I don’t know which one, after all, I was not interested that much – Gomułka himself spoke about it. He said: ‘You’ve made mistakes because I told you to expel Zionists and not Jews. This is to say, not every Jew qualified to be expelled from the country. Since, he pointed out in addition, there are certain Jews like specialists of various professions, and those Jews should be protected and not harassed.’
In march 1968, the Lublin branch of the security service started surveillance activities aimed at a particular group of young people – 'the "banana youth" of Jewish origin'.3 Already in 1967, the security service became interested in the activities of the circles close to the Lublin branch of the Social-Cultural Association of Jews (Towarzystwo Społeczno-Kulturalne Żydów).4 Michał Ziółkowski, principal of the Jan Zamoyski general high school in Lublin, was accused of ‘tolerant attitude towards noxious initiatives.’5 Lublin singer Michał Hochman was also investigated by the secret police. Recalling that experience, he said: For example, there was that situation: once I went with Marek Wojtkiewicz to the ‘Czarcia Łapa’ café, and Marek said: ‘Listen, Michał, don’t say anything about Israel or politics ‘cause you’re being watched by four guys from the police’. Of course they weren’t wearing uniforms. So they were looking for some scapegoats, and they could hardly find them in Lublin since the Jewish community was small.
People of Jewish origin who had taken part in the Warsaw protests that started on 8 March 1968 found themselves in particularly difficult situation. The authorities made their involvement the principal argument in support of the propaganda statement that 'the people behind the youth protests were mainly Jewish'.6 Józef Kliger took part in the events at the Main School of Planning and Statistics in Warsaw, today’s Warsaw School of Economics. Years later, he recalled: I think I wasn’t more active than three or two hundred other people at the school. I was in the union of socialist youth. Everyone knew that I was an activist and that I was influential. We had Polish mates who were as if on the frontline. But those that were more active, they weren’t harmed in any way. There was Jerzy Kropiwnicki [later a ‘Solidarity’ activist]. He was way more involved. We would go around with him, me and my two or three friends. They did nothing to him. Neither did they do anything to those two or three friends of mine but they took me. I was suspended mostly because I was Jewish. I was suspended for a year on disciplinary grounds. I had attended a rally but attending a rally was not the case, it was about me distributing leaflets, agitating and so on. They didn’t have to prove it. It had been written down by the police, there was a sitting of a commission, and that commission decided.
The large-scale anti-Semitic campaign initiated in 1968 was targeted both at the young and the older generation of Poles of Jewish descent. Years later, Jakub Gorfinkel recalled: The problem was that in the newspapers they started to shout: 'Like children, like parents', and they began dismissing the parents from their jobs. It was a time when each day, newspapers would write that conspiracies had been busted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that there had been purges in that ministry, that Lewandowski and earlier Ferenchait and before him Libermann and earlier Zendler, had been dismissed. It was like that all the time. It turned out there were people in Poland who, being 18 or 20, hadn’t learnt that they were Jews until 1968. Their parents would hide them from the truth, and only after mum or dad had been fired for being Jewish and their names had been published, those people suddenly learned that they were Jews. For those young people it was a terrible blow. Their parents were often true Polish patriots.
The march events initiated a period of harassment of Jews which led to a large part of the community leaving the country. For the emigrants, the post-March ’68 period was the closure of the post-war stage of their lives in Poland. They had to pack their belongings and leave – that was what the authorities expected. The memories include an account of a conversation between an emigrant and an official. The official argued: There’s no place for you here. You have to leave. The world is big. You can run a shop anywhere, for certain. The emigrant replied: I was born here and I am a citizen of this country; this has been my fatherland since my great-great-grandfathers. Faced with the fact that those people were firmly rooted to the country, officials remained unyielding. They did not care about the situation of the man who asked: Where am I going to go now? I’m 54 already, I don’t speak the language, don’t have a profession, what am I going to do out there in the world? My place is here, this is my fatherland. The official’s response was always the same: No. You can find a place anywhere, and there’s no room here. You have to leave Poland.
Józef Kliger recalled: At that time, there were three or four Jews in Lublin on more prominent positions. One was a colonel of the Polish Army, the second one was some manager of something, some shitty company, and the third one was my father. He was a warehouseman, and had two subordinates. But the authorities had problems, they had to expel someone, they couldn’t expel too few. So my father was dismissed as well.
The anti-Semitic campaign also spread into the circles of two of the higher education institutions in Lublin. Among the people forced to emigrate was Krystyna Modrzewska, member of the Home Army during World War II and since 1964, head of the department of anthropology at the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University. Years later, she said: It would have been horrible had I stayed in Poland after ‘68...
In some of the presented memories the expression “March ‘68” refers to the events that took place between June 1967 and June 1968. In the memories, Gomułka’s first speech in June 1967 begins a period of incubation7 of anti-Semitic attitudes in Poland, and the process reaches completion with the second speech. That speech, where names of people of Jewish origin were mentioned, together with smear campaign in the media and during rallies, and manifestations of anti-Semitic attitudes by Polish people, became the impulse prompting decisions to emigrate from Poland. For those who emigrated, the expression “March ‘68” is associated with poignant, shocking experiences.
Reactions and attitudes of Poles
This is undoubtedly one of the principal elements of these memories. Based on the accounts, four types of attitudes can be distinguished. It is certainly only a partial typology and characterisation of the problem. The first typical attitude, consisting in joining the anti-Semitic campaign by expressing hatred, has already been discussed above. The neutral attitude can be characterized by the words of the anonymous interviewee quoted above: after all, I was not interested that much. In that case perception of the propaganda slogans did not led to actions, partly due to the fact that there were no Poles of Jewish origin in the interviewee’s environment. The attitude of attenuating relationships by Polish acquaintances was a distress for the future emigrants. It seemed confusing, given years-long relations. Morris Wajsbrot recalled: I had Polish colleagues with whom I had worked a lot. But in that period everyone became shy, hid their heads, they were afraid to speak. I remember one friend walking down Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. I nodded to him and he lowered his head. He didn’t want to respond. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to, or because he was a bad person. The situation was such – I don’t know how to get to understand it – that they were afraid of something or supported those people. Michał Hochman’s memory has preserved the image of mixed attitudes of Poles: In 1968, I noticed that some peopled had kind of turned away. I don’t know if they were afraid, it’s hard to say. But there were some people that remained our very, very devoted friends. Unbelievably devoted. And even my female friend from Warsaw which I’d met in Kazimierz Dolny would say: ‘Listen, if something happens, don’t worry. I’ll keep you hidden’. I said: ‘Fine, fine. You’ll keep me hidden’.
There were also those who were ready to help or simply showed kindness. Their names were often kept in memory. Michał Hochman recalled: Those were kind-hearted people, I have to mention a few names I can recall. There were more of them but of those that I remember, there was Mr. Sandecki who had once worked with my dad in the Motozbyt [a car retail company]. He was the manager of the Motozbyt. He walked us to the station where our stuff passed customs clearance. Jerzy Księski, who was an editor with the radio, also kept us company. Of course they were immediately sent away as the customs officers didn’t want any witnesses of what was going on during the clearance. But they were not afraid. They came. They sat with me for a while. There was another man – I forgot his name – a close friend of ours. He even had his own car and he took my parents to the Dworzec Gdański railway station in Warsaw, and he took me there as well. We even had a small incident in the apartment house where I lived, there was that dreg living there next to us. I’d lent him my guitar and I wanted to pick it up the day I was leaving, and he started to call me names, he got at me: you such and such... And that man stood up for me. He told the guy that if he said one more word, he would simply hit him. And that guy got scared and went away. But I didn’t get the guitar back. So there were very kind people but there were also some people who seemed happy with the situation and supported the government’s action.
The problem of unaccountability of experiences can also be noted in the relation between the Poles of Jewish origin and other Poles. Miriam Kuperman, an emigrant from Lublin, said: But none of my Polish friends understood it. They would say: ‘What does it matter to you what they say on the radio, on TV, this wave will pass’. Due to the wide scope of the propaganda campaign, it was a nationwide problem.
Decision to leave Poland – ‘it was sad’
In the memories, the decision to leave Poland appears embedded into the single main context which was the all-out anti-Semitic campaign that, due to its vast scope and intensity, forced people to make decisions desired by the authorities. Especially difficult was the situation of the elderly, who faced the perspective of setting up a new life for themselves. Jakub Gorfinkel spoke about the experience of his father, who had been 59 at that time: I was the first from my family to depart because I’d always been an independent person. My dad was as old as I’m now, and my mum was a bit younger but they weren’t young people anymore. It’s not easy to leave your flat, your job, the people you know, and here you even know where to go to get your ID, where the hospital is, where to find a doctor – you know everything, and you have to leave everything... You have to move to a new place and learn everything from the beginning, the language, you have to get into an environment that you don’t understand at all. Dad was afraid.
Poles of Jewish origin were afflicted by parting with Polish culture. Józef Kliger commented on this issue as follows: I knew that my parents would come after me. Leaving them wasn’t the problem. I felt sad. I considered myself rather a Pole of Jewish descent, very connected with culture, with Poland and all that. It was discomforting but, on the other hand, there was the belief that we had no place here, that you can’t depend on the whims of one man or another, knowing for sure that you can’t get a job, you can’t progress at work. That was also sad but the decision could not be avoided, there’s nothing to talk about.
In some rare cases, the compulsion to emigrate produced in the course of the social and media campaign advanced realization of family plans. This is how Miriam Kuperman described her situation in the years 1967-1968: I made my choice very quickly. When I heard Gomułka’s speech about fifth column, I was completely broken down. The decision to leave was motivated not only by the political situation. We were completely alone, as my father died a year earlier. Actually, our entire family was in Israel: my two sisters, the cousins. In fact, we didn’t have a single relative in Poland at that time. And that mattered as well. The political issues simply advanced it all, drove us to do it. The desire to go to Israel had always been somewhere on my mind. But I was an exception, others weren’t like me. It simply advanced the decision that was already made. My aunts wrote me that I could continue my studies. That was an important information because if I had known I couldn’t study there, I probably wouldn’t have left that quickly. My fiancé left his parents, sister and brother. They emigrated two or three years later. They didn’t go to Israel but to Denmark. They waited until his brother had passed the matura exam. My fiancé wanted to go with me. I was the impulse that made him leave. I think that my brother also wouldn’t have made the decision so quickly. I wanted to go very much.
Ryszard Weiler recalled: In 1968, I didn’t have to leave. I wasn’t expelled from school or something like that. But I saw no solution. To tell the truth, I feared that, although they hadn’t expelled me yet, if things continued this way, I would never ever finish my studies. This is not that theoretical because there were people who went to prison, I know such people. So all of that could have happened but no one in particular forced me. You can say that we started the emigration from Lublin. My sister and my brother-in-law were the first to leave, and I left after them.
Procedures – ‘you could take five dollars’
For the needs of mass emigration, which involved around 13,000 people across the country, the authorities prepared special procedures 'regarding exits from Poland of citizens of Jewish origin who will declare their will to emigrate'.8 As a result of those procedures, the emigrants were deprived of the right to return to Poland. Upon crossing the border, they would produce not an ordinary passport but a document that allowed them to travel, the so-called ‘emigration passport’ which was a permission for one-way travel.9 An important memory for those who emigrated in March ‘68 was that of signing of the ‘waiver’ of Polish citizenship.
Michał Hochman recalled:
And suddenly came the information that we had to report to the passport department to get travel documents. The date of issue was much earlier, and we got the documents only a week before the departure. So they had been kept in Lublin in order to be given to us at the last minute. So, all of a sudden, we had to wind everything up in a haste. That’s why I had to stay for two more weeks, since we hadn’t managed to do it. It’s good that it was possible. Having received that document, you had to confirm that you waived the Polish citizenship. It turned out to be illegal, that move by the passport department, since you could only waive it via the council of the state, officially. It wasn’t the waiver of the citizenship but the receipt of the documents which at the same time was equal to the waiver because the travel document stated that the owner wasn’t a Polish citizen. So later on, I would show it to my friends: ‘See? Look. A mere week ago, I was a Polish citizen, and now I’m not’. And most of them would reply: ‘Listen, I covet this travel document so much. I’d be happy to swap over.’ Such were those times.
Miriam Kuperman was probably the first person in Lublin to declare the will to leave. Years later, she described her visit at the police station: I think it was in late April that I filed the papers. No one asked why I was leaving. I saw that there was some consternation among the Lublin police. They didn’t exactly knew what to do with us. They made some calls and, at last, we signed a document stating that we waive the citizenship. I received the papers on 1 June. It wasn’t a passport, it was a travel document stating that the owner of that document was not a Polish citizen. You had three weeks to wind up all your affairs and leave.
The course of the procedures, compared with the standard proceeding, was considered exceptionally smooth: It wasn’t traumatic. In contrast to many bureaucratic proceedings that you had to deal with in Poland at that time, and which required some gruelling effort, that was an utterly trivial thing.
The last days in Lublin and in Poland – ‘I will never return to this place’
From the memories of Miriam Kuperman:
I was as if in a fever. All the time I was thinking: ‘My God, so I’ll never return to this place. How is this possible?’ There were so many things to deal with that there was absolutely no time to think. Today, I still don’t understand why I didn’t say goodbye to my neighbours. I still don’t understand how that happened. It was all like in a dream. You could take five dollars with you – that was the allowed amount. We ordered a box, and, principally, we took all books. I thought that there was no life without books. All books related with work and various books from my childhood. Apart from that, we took some pots, bedclothes, some clothes and that was all. It was allowed to take furniture but who would think about furniture? We went to Warsaw. It all had to be dealt with through the Dutch embassy. After all we had no money to pay for the journey or for anything else. I guess the Dutch embassy paid for it and got us all the documents. In Warsaw we stayed for a few hours at our friends’ and then we got on a train and went to Vienna.
Closing all the affairs related with Poland was one of the last experiences of the emigrants. Having one, two, three, or four weeks between receiving travel documents and the day of customs clearance, they carried out a rapid selection of the possessions acquired throughout their entire lives. Genowefa Hochman recalled: I furnished my home – in ‘68, in January, I bought new furniture. We invested 130,000 zlotys in the repairs, in that flat. I made it a beautiful flat, central heating, as there had been stoves everywhere, and it had been cold in there; doors and windows – everything had to be replaced, painted – and it all had to be left behind. I placed an ad in the “Kurier” newspaper that appeared at 2 pm – and I guess some fifty [people came], all at once, I couldn’t take it so I asked them all to leave, and I let three of them stay, and showed them that everything was for sale. It was all sold dirt-cheap.
The number and the value of items that could be taken were strictly defined by appropriate regulations. Many interviewees remembered the fact that they were allowed to take only five dollars with them.
Customs clearance – ‘Here they left behind more than they had’
At the Lublin railway station the emigrants’ luggage was screened meticulously. Some found it insulting as the officials tried to find hidden items. For that reason, they often destroyed valuable mementos. The luggage search has stuck in Genowefa Hochman’s memory: That was horrible. (...) They rummaged through everything, tore the sleeves of the jackets apart. I had a frame – made while still at school – a canvas frame with little cherries painted on it, and there was a photograph inside – they ripped that frame to search it, because it was soft – I’d fitted a cotton lining to make it bulgy, and they destroyed that frame. It was meant to be my souvenir for when I’d get old – I made it as a child.
Years on, that zeal of customs officers looking for hidden Jewish possessions brought up the worst of associations. Michał Hochman said: It was many times worse than the Gestapo, that customs office. I guess they followed some instructions. The first instruction was that we must be carrying goods, and another one was to simply pester us a little. It was the myth that we would goods away, that we had private businesses and so on. They looked for stuff, possessions that we allegedly must have hidden somewhere. But they didn’t know that my parents had spent all their money on our flat.
Outside Poland – ‘we started a new life’
The Poles of Jewish origin who had left Lublin chose Israel, Denmark, Sweden and the United States for their final destinations. Michał Hochman recalled:
There was that story that in Vienna they caught everyone and put them, whether they wanted or not, on a plane to Israel. And not everyone wanted to go to Israel because they simply didn’t want to live through more wars, as they’d already lived through enough wars in their lives.
The process of settling in new environments was a difficult experience for all emigrants. Young people found it easier to adjust to the new situation. By learning the language and studying at universities they obtained education that enabled them to progress in their careers. We started a new life, said one of the emigrants. On the other hand, older people were at pains to set up a life in the new reality: We had friends whose parents were old, and left in their fifties, and later had very tough lives. Not knowing the language, having no job, they couldn’t get started.
Reflecting years later – ‘we are a little torn between’
Looking from the perspective of the twenty-first century, many emigrants – but certainly not all of them – have distanced themselves from the March ‘68 events. An example of this attitude can be found in the memories of Miriam Kuperman, who said: In my case, 1968 is kind of a distant past. It doesn’t even hurt anymore. This past is no longer that important. I know that all our friends who moved for example to Scandinavia, still delve into this subject but the Israelis don’t. We are a little torn between. There are so many ways I’m connected with Poland. The literature, history – those are our roots. I remember that my father’s sisters and everyone else had so much Polish character. Today, I feel truly at home in Israel. And I can say – which is funny nowadays – that I feel safe in Israel. Most people don’t understand it. They wonder at my will to live in a country where there’s a war being fought virtually all the time. Actually, why don’t I go back to Poland? Since, after all, this place isn’t safe. That said, I like to visit Poland very much. I really like it that all signs are in Polish and everyone speaks Polish.
In America, Morris Wajsbrot rose to the challenge of emigration: We came here, we all worked hard, the children studied. We had access to everything, no one asked: Who are you? A Jew, a Pole, a Russian? You want to study? Door is open for everyone. And we took advantage of the possibility to continue learning. We did quite well. We’re organized, independent from them. I can afford to live. So I’m happy.
Text by Łukasz Kijek
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko
1 Mazur M., Polityczne kampanie prasowe w okresie rządów Władysława Gomułki, Lublin: Lubelskie Tow. Naukowe, 2004;
3 Pol. bananowa młodzież – anti-regime student activists from wealthy families, with parents often involved with the establishment. Unlike the majority of Poles, those families were able to buy bananas – a scarce good at the time – hence the name.
6 Tych F., ‘"Marzec '68". Geneza, przebeg i skuki kampanii antysemickiej lat 1967-68’, Następstwa Zagłady Żydów.
Polska 1944-2010, Eds. Tych F., Adamczyk-Garbowska M., Lublin: Wydawnictwo UMCS, 2011, p. 398;
7 Eisler J., Polski rok 1968, Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2006, p. 116;
8 Tych 2011, p. 407;
9 Tych 2011, p. 402.