Drama & History Trip To Poland – Guest Blog
Guest Post by Lauren Evans, Year 13
Krakow, Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Birkenau
Autumn in Kraków, Poland, is something spectacular. Misty mornings, stunningly sunny afternoons and an electrifying atmosphere of the bustling streets in the evening is what any tourist could hope for. I was taken aback by the abstract housing styles and endless fields of countryside that seemed to reach beyond the horizon.
The trip began with a ridiculously early struggle to the airport on our departing journey to Kraków (yawns all round). Our first day consisted of delving into the Jewish Ghetto of Kraków and observing the buildings of Jewish life, their culture and how it is in the present day. Secondly, we were fortunate enough to visit Schindler’s Factory/Offices. I was chilled with goosebumps as we absorbed the drastic information of how the Jews were forced into labour during the Holocaust, and the length to which Oskar Schindler went to save 1,200 lives by employing them at his factory.
Our trip wasn’t all doom and gloom. The polish food was extraordinary; dumplings and red cabbage on a daily basis was something I had never endured before. Once we’d tried the polish culture of food, we adventured into the Old Town of Kraków. Captivating, exquisite and majestic, the Old Town is nothing but elegant. Horses and carriages paraded around the cobbled streets and petite market stalls drifted like falling autumn leaves. Passion glowed from the regular street buskers, filling the air with the glorious sound of Polish traditions. Once filled to the brim with warm, heavenly crêpes we wandered through the maze of streets towards our temporary home; the wonderful Wyspianski hotel.
The second day was a daunting one. We boarded a coach to Oświęcim, the morning mist followed us like a shadow to our destination. As we pulled into the car park, the coach suddenly became scarily cold. This was the coldest place we visited; historically and emotionally. Auschwitz. Learning about WW2 in history and throughout my life is something I had always attached myself to, yet I was nervous about what to expect. Throughout the tour of Auschwitz 1 we were fortunate enough to observe the individuality behind the 6 million Jews who were murdered. A room which struck me the most were the rooms full of human hair, over 80,000 pairs of shoes, suitcases, glasses and prosthetic limbs. Have you put on a pair of shoes today? Imagine that one pair repeated 80,000 times. The rooms were full of worn down possessions and lost souls of the victims. I am an aspiring writer, yet no words will ever come close to how Auschwitz makes you feel. I urge you to visit, put it on your bucket list. It is an experience that will leave you breathless and it is extremely educational. ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – Work makes (you) free. This is what the gate to Auschwitz 1 reads. Ironic to say the least.
After Auschwitz 1, we continued on to the extermination camp; Auschwitz Birkenau. It is littered with wooden and brick barracks, where inside battered bunk beds housed 5-6 people per level. I verbally and literarily struggle to explain the size of Birkenau, I was astounded as pictures definitely do not do it justice. There were no birds, no life, and no growing flowers. The land was an abandoned murderer’s site. Crumbling bricks are all of which is left of the two gas chambers at Auschwitz Birkenau. I am eternally grateful to have been able to visit such a historical place. Emptiness is the only word that comes slightly close to how it made me feel.
In my opinion, it should be compulsory that everyone visits Auschwitz. As a quote I saw whilst there, ‘those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ – George Santayana. Standing in the grounds of Auschwitz makes you feel more than any textbook ever can.
Overall, my trip to Poland was the best decision I have ever made. I have always wanted to go there, and I would recommend it to anyone. I was able to experience the fantastic country with my beloved friends and people who never fail to keep my spirits high. If one day you do visit, go with someone who you would cherish the memories with forever. Furthermore, I will always cherish the memories I have made in Kraków, Poland.