VISIT TO ROZWADÓW – JUNE 2004 - By Kenneth Edgar
My interest in Rozwadów stems from my paternal grandfather, Irving Itzkowitz Edgar, who was born in Rozwadów in 1902 and lived there until he was 3 years old. He then moved to nearby Tarnobrzeg and lived there until 1910, at which time he immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Detroit. His original last name was Itzkowitz. The family last name was changed to Edgar after immigrating.
I traveled with my father to Rozwadów in June of 2004 on one of the Jewish Gen ShtetlSchleppers tours. We were the only two on this tour, so we had a private guide for the week. We started in Kracow where we spent three days visiting places of Jewish interest. We then drove east for Rozwadow and Tarnobrzeg. We stayed in a hotel in the larger city of Rzeszów, about a 45 minute drive south of Rozwadow. The first day we visited Tarnobrzeg. The next day we drove to Rozwadów. The area around Rozwadów appears to be well developed and is part of the larger city of Stalowa Wola. However, the old central market square and portions of the center of the original town are still present.
Based on some previous research I was aware that in the Archive in Przemysl there was a detailed land survey map or Cadastre map of Rozwadów from 1853 made by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Our guide was able to obtain a copy of this map for me and it proved useful. When we arrived, we parked on the edge of what was the old central market square which is now a park. First, we walked down a street off the southwest corner of the square. We came across a small one-story building that our guide thought was once a Beit HaMidrash or Jewish study house. On the top of the building was engraved the year 1910, presumably indicating its age. Photographs were taken. We continued walking through the area just to the west of the market square which our guide felt might have been part of the old Jewish neighborhood. In general the area appeared very rundown with most of the houses and buildings appearing in poor condition and in a state of decay. Interestingly, the general layout of the larger main streets immediately around the square was the same as on the 1853 map. Our guide noted on the map that amid all the small marked lots there was a large black rectangle surrounded by some apparent open space. He felt this could have represented an official building or site of significance and that we should investigate this. We followed the map on a short walk to the area.
When we arrived at the site we were surprised to find a large beautifully well-maintained two story stone building. This was in contrast to the generally poor condition of the surrounding area. As we were to learn, this is the now restored former Lubomirski Castle, built between 1782 and 1786. It is now a part of the Regional Museum of Stalowa Wola. Inside on the second floor there was newly created beautiful art museum containing both modern and classical art. Our guide spoke to some people in the museum office, explaining to them who we were. Although I could only communicate with them through our guide (they spoke no English), they seemed eager to help. One man took us up to the third floor of the museum which contained multiple well made exhibitions about the life and history and culture of the people of the San River region over the centuries. I was pleasantly surprised to the see that among these displays was an acknowledgment of the Jewish history of Rozwadów. There was a large display case containing many Jewish artifacts, including torah scrolls. The gentleman who was showing us around said that none of these were original to the area, as no Jewish artifacts actually from Rozwadów itself have been found.
We went back to the museum office and the man helping us took us to a room containing stacks of documents. He produced a type written journal in Polish dating to around 1910 which he told us was written by man traveling in the area and that some pages contained descriptions of Jewish life in the town. He photocopied it and gave it to me, which I hope to get translated at some point. He also gave me to keep a newly created pamphlet and booklet printed in English created by the museum and the Stalowa Wola Cultural Society. The pamphlet described the museum and also indicated that there was a restaurant and a small conference center and hotel in the building which seemed designed to cater to local businesses. A photograph in the pamphlet showed a rather elegant appearing hotel room. There were also descriptions of local history, including some mention of the Jewish history of Rozwadów, and a brief history of the Lubormiski castle. Apparently the Lubomirski family were the local nobility that owned or controlled the area beginning in 1723. The castle was part of their estate. At some point later it contained local government offices and even contained a prison. In 2002 it was newly restored and became the seat of the Regional Museum.
Finally our helpful museum guide took us outside and directed our attention across the small field in front of the museum to two small buildings back toward the center of town. He said one use to be a rabbi’s house, although it was not clear to me if the structure itself was original or if he meant that a rabbi’s house once existed on this site. At the other site he told us that a mikva once existed and that a small portion of the original structure was incorporated into the existing building. He pointed out to two tall nearby trees adjacent to an empty lot and told us that he thought a synagogue once existed here. I took several photographs of these sites. All this information is simply what this man told us and I have no independent confirmation or any idea how true any of it is. Lastly he showed us a road extending north across from the museum entrance. According to him the Soviets were the first to occupy Rozwadów during early WWII and when they first came they gathered the Jewish population and marched them out of town down this road. I photographed the road.
We ate lunch in the museum restaurant which turned out to be quite nice. We then went back walking through the older portion of the town. Given the information we had just received and the presence nearby of what he thought was a former Beit-hamidrash, our guide felt that this area between the western side of the central market square and the old Lubormiski castle was most likely the old Jewish neighborhood of Rozwadów. We went to get a closer view of the rabbi house and mikva sites. I also went to inspect the area that we were told may have once been the site of a synagogue. It was an empty lot. The presence of several tables suggested that this could be a small market place. I took several photographs of this site from multiple angles. I noticed that among other graffiti there was a swastika on a concrete wall bordering the lot, a sad reminder of the tragic history of this region. I photographed this as well. The presence here of this symbol is all the more unfortunate and troubling if this lot truly is the site of a former synagogue. Later on I saw a second swastika on the wall of a house
We then spent some time walking through and photographing the small streets of this area trying to get a general feel for the place. Again, in contrast to the clean and newly restored museum we just saw, the houses were in poor condition and the area was in a general state of neglect and decay. Several houses seemed abandoned, while others appeared to have people living in them. Finally we went back to the large old central market square. As previously mentioned, it is now a park. It is covered with grass and trees and contains benches and a playground and several large children’s play sets. There was peaceful feel to it, with several children playing there at the time. I walked around the park and then spent some time relaxing on one of the benches and writing in my journal. We then left and headed back to Rzeszów for the night, planning on returning to Kracow the next morning.
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