A Wielkie Oczy Journal
KehilaLinks Page--Wielkie Oczy | Jewish Gen Home Page | KehilaLinks
The First Day
I left for Poland on Sunday morning April 22, 2001 and landed in
Krakow airport at 9:00 a.m. After a short visit with friends I rented a
car and traveled east toward Wielkie Oczy. I arrived at 6:00 p.m.
At the Wielkie Oczy cemetery I met Bogdan and 2 journalists.
One of them from the Polish edition of National Geographic, and the
second from Gazeta, the leading Polish newspaper. They explained to me
that National Geographic (the Polish edition) is preparing a general
article on Wielkie Oczy and that they also wanted to write about the
cemetery. Additionally, Gazeta (the local Rzeszow edition) is preparing
an article on the cemetery and our initiative. It was getting late, so
we agreed to meet the next day at noon.
The Belzec Memorial
Jadwiga Palczynska, headmistress of the high school
in Wieklie Oczy receives a resolution from the Catholic Jewish
Relations Council of Northeast Queens (in New York City) that
acknowledes the humanitarian efforts of the students, their
teachers, religious and governmental officials and others for
their role in helping to restore the Jewish cemetery.
The director of the school speaks to the
students. Books presented to the school can be seen on a table to
A memorial outside Jaworow where Jews from Jaworów
and Wielkie Oczy were shot.
In Wielkie Oczy...that's the synagogue in the
From Bogdan I also heard about the status of the work at the cemetery
and saw the first results of these efforts. There were rains in this
part of Poland in previous weeks and work has gone on more slowly
than we had anticipated. There were also some bureaucratic obstacles and
some differences between the priest and Bogdan about what type of fence
to build, so they waited for my arrival to settle things. Now everything
is on track, and the weather is good. I made decisions about the details
of the fence, and the bureaucratic obstacles were broken. The fence
should be ready by the end of May.
The Second Day
First I took the resolution from the Catholic Jewish Relations
Council sent by Rabbi Stadtmauer, including my Polish translation, and I
asked the local craftsman to make a wooden frame and to put it under
glass. I was told that it would be ready at 1:00 p.m., so I went 50 km
to Belzec to see the extermination camp where hundreds of
thousands of Jews were murdered by Germans in 1942-43, including 1300
Jews of Jaworów and Wielkie Oczy sent to Belzec on 7 Nov 1942.
On the way from Belzec to the meeting with the journalists I met the
director of the Wielkie Oczy middle school (a pretty young woman named
Jadwiga) and I gave her the resolution (see photo). She was very happy
that people in the distant America know about her children cleaning the
cemetery. I told her that we'd like to contribute something to the
She answered that anything will be most welcome, because the school
is brand new (it has only existed for 2 years) and except for some basic
books they have nothing. I promised to be back tomorrow.
In the afternoon I had a long meeting with the journalists and I told
them everything I knew about Wielkie Oczy, about our initiative, about
the cemetery and the synagogue, etc., etc. I spent the entire afternoon
and evening speaking with them. I think it's very important to tell the
Polish people about all we do.
The Third Day
I did some shopping in the Lubaczow
bookshop and then went to the school. The students received from
us the following books:
- Polish-English and English-Polish Dictionary (Collins)
- Polish-German and German Polish Dictionary
- Encyclopedia for Middle Schools
- Encyclopedia for Middle Schools Literature
- Encyclopedia for Middle Schools History
- The Big Illustrated Atlas of the World
- The General Encyclopedia (in 7 Volumes)
and some other books
All the students from the school were present.
They asked some questions and were really happy to get all these books.
I have a commitment from the school that in the coming years the
cemetery will be cleaned by the students twice a year (spring and
In the afternoon I crossed the Ukrainian border—not an easy thing
to do—and I went to Krakowiec (see photo) and to Jaworów (see photo),
following the route that the Jews from Wielkie Oczy were forced to take
In the Krakowiec photo you can see one of the streets of this
village. I tried to talk to some older people, but they were frightened
and told me that they knew nothing about Jews. In Jaworów I was lucky
to meet a man named Ivan who told me where the Jaworów ghetto had once
stood (see the photo on the left). The old houses of the ghetto don t
exist anymore. They were destroyed during the War. Ivan took me into the
forest 3 km from Jaworow, where Jews from Jaworów and Wielkie Oczy were
shot by Germans (see photo).
It would be impossible to find this place without the help of a
local, because to get there you almost have to cross a gate to the
nearby camp of a Ukrainian Army armored division, and it is perhaps not
the wisest thing to do in this part of the world. I returned to Poland
after midnight, after 6 hours of checking by Ukrainian and Polish border
The Fourth Day
In the morning I traveled through the countryside around Wielkie Oczy,
including Zmijowiska, where I took some photographs. [Click here to see photographs of Zmijowiska] At noon
I had a meeting with the director of the Lubaczow Regional Museum Mr.
Kubrak and his staff. They have a little Judaica exhibition at the
We discussed possibilities of restoring the synagogue in Wielkie Oczy.
The chances are poor because it would need much money. Without rich
sponsors it would be impossible to restore. We decided we should start
by meeting with the head of the local Wielkie Oczy authority, Mr Strojny.
Within one hour a representative of the Museum (Mr. Mazur), Bogdan
and I were in the office of Mr. Strojny. We were given assurances that
the local authority would immediately finance an expert's report
on the [scope of] work (and costs) needed for restoration of the roof,
walls and foundations of the synagogue—the main problem is the roof.
We decided also that the best thing (after the possible restoration of
the synagogue) would be for it possibly to fulfill such three functions
as: a village library, an internet-café for youth and a place for a
Judaica exhibition of the region. All this is only a fantasy at this
stage, but I think it's worth to try.
Later, I had some conversations with local people who remember my
family (see photo). And in the evening I invited Bogdan and his wife for
a dinner. (Bogdan is a guest at home; he spends almost all the
time in Wielkie Oczy, so I felt I should invite his wife and himself to
The Fifth Day
I spent all morning with a priest and read the parish chronicle to
find some facts about the history of Wielkie Oczy. I also gave him a
copy of the resolution of the Catholic Jewish Relations Council (the
photos are not ready yet). He was really affected. Afterwards, we (the
priest, Bogdan and I) left for the cemetery to settle differences
on the type of fence to be built. Bogdan showed me tens of pieces
of headstonestones that he found at local farms (see photo examples). He
still knows about other headstones, and they too will find their way to
the cemetery. In the afternoon I left for Krakow and I was there by 9:00
The Sixth Day
I spent much time on research in Krakow libraries looking for materials
on Wielkie Oczy and I found a lot. Afternoon...some shopping.
The Seventh Day
The day with my Krakow friends...and then a flight home.
Some important information. The funds we had collected were not
enough. All additional expenses were kindly donated by my brother (this
in addition to his basic donation). Before my journey he offered to
contribute this not insignificant sum for these expenses that were not
included in the official cost estimation—including, for example, some
money related to bringing back the headstones to the cemetery, some
money that was used to help to break the bureaucratic obstacles, and so
on. This money was also used to double the sum to the gift for the
KehilaLinks Page--Wielkie Oczy | Jewish Gen Home Page | KehilaLinks
Copyright © The
Wielkie Oczy Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.