A photo from Lublin: Faces of a Nonexistent City, likely taken by taken by Abram Zylberberg. (photo from Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre Centre)
From July 3-7, the Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre Centre in Lublin (Osrodek Brama Grodzka – Teatr NN), Poland, will host the Lubliner Reunion – the first international meeting of Jewish inhabitants of the city and their descendants in 70 years.
Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre Centre is an organization run by non-Jews dedicated to preserving Jewish memory. It has been actively pursuing this mission for 25 years, and its program includes meetings, discussions, sightseeing tours, commemorations and artistic events. The reunion will constitute an important element of the celebrations, which mark 700 years since the founding of the city of Lublin, and is designed to emphasize the significance of the Jewish community for the history of the city.
The history of Jews has been intertwined with that of Lublin for several hundred years, and has helped shape its identity. The story of Lublin has been enriched with, among other things, the presence of a well-known yeshivah (Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin), the meetings of the Council of Four Lands (Vaad Arba Aratzot), the activities of local rabbis and social organizations and the work of writer and Nobel-laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Just before the Second World War broke out, the 43,000 Jewish citizens of Lublin constituted one-third of the city’s population. The majority of Lublin’s Jewish inhabitants were murdered during the Holocaust and one of the German death camps, Majdanek, was located on the outskirts of Lublin. The story of Lublin cannot be told without the stories of its Jewish inhabitants, which is why, during the festivities organized to celebrate the 700-year-long history of the city in 2017, the presence of their descendants is vital and symbolic.
“The Lubliner Reunion is a way to build a bridge across time,” said Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, founder and director of Grodzka Gate. “It’s meant as a meeting in which both the people and their stories are important. Grodzka Gate is engaged in protecting the ‘memory of the place.’ We want to preserve what is left of Lublin’s Jewish community. The Lubliner Reunion will allow us to share knowledge and fill the blank spaces in the stories about Lublin and its inhabitants.”
The program of the reunion covers meetings devoted to the history and culture of Jewish Lublin, workshops in genealogy, walks along tourist trails, commemorations and a variety of artistic events. One of the central features of the reunion will be presentations of Lubliner family stories. Guests will have a chance to get to know both historical and contemporary Lublin, visit the former Jewish district and meet non-Jews working to preserve the memory of the Jews of Lublin for generations to come.
Apart from sightseeing within Lublin, Grodzka Gate is also planning tours of the region – Zamosc, Kazimierz Dolny, Belzec and Wlodawa, among other places. Apart from these excursions, all events are free of charge for participants. The inauguration of the reunion will take place on July 3 in the Museum at the Lublin Castle.
“We want to get in touch with and invite all those whose families come from Lublin,” underlined reunion coordinator Monika Tarajko. “We already have participants coming from Israel, the United States, France, Belgium and Great Britain. However, we are still striving to reach as many prospective participants as possible and inform them about the reunion. We are expecting more than 100 people to visit Lublin as part of this special event. Feel welcome to join us!”
For reunion registration and information, visit lubliners2017.teatrnn.pl or contact Tarajko (48-606-687-367, [email protected]) or the American ambassador to Grodzka Gate, Leora Tec (1-781-862-4976, [email protected]).
Grodzka Gate’s other projects include Lublin: Memory of the Holocaust, a trail commemorating the Jewish inhabitants of Lublin who perished in the Holocaust; The Mysteries of Memory, an artistic happening involving a piece of the city with its specific topography, history and technical infrastructure; and Henio Zytomirski: The “Letters to Henio” Project, where, on April 19 (Holocaust Remembrance Day in Poland) every year, citizens of Lublin send letters to Henio Zytomirski, a Jewish boy who was born in 1933 in Lublin and was murdered by the Nazis in a gas chamber, probably in November 1942.
Grodzka Gate’s Lublin: Memory of the Place Exhibition is dedicated to Lublin before the war. A considerable part of the former Jewish district today has been covered with concrete, under which the foundations of Jewish buildings and the memory of those who once lived there are buried. Over the years, Grodzka Gate has become a place where old photographs, documents and testimonies can be preserved for posterity.
As well, there is Lublin: Faces of a Nonexistent City. In May 2012, Grodzka Gate received a collection of 2,700 glass plate negatives found in the attic of the house at Rynek 4 by workmen doing repairs. The photographs were taken between 1914 and 1939 and were, based on Grodzka Gate’s research and recent findings, taken by Abram Zylberberg.
Grodzka Gate’s website is teatrnn.pl/en.