Bit by bit, symbols of a lost world are erected

By Nissan Tzur, October 6, 2011
The unveiling at Gora Kalwaria

The unveiling at Gora Kalwaria

The year was 1990, Communism had just collapsed in Poland and John Pomian, a Pole living in the UK, was on a return visit to his country of origin with a Jewish friend, Casimir Stamirski.

As the pair passed through the town of Mogielnica, Mr Pomian, who served in the RAF during the war, was invited by Mr Stamirski to stop off in the town to see they could find any traces of the Jewish community that once thrived there.

There was nothing to be found. As they returned to their car, they spotted a large boulder bearing the names of locals who died during the Second World War. There were no Jewish names among them.

On his return to London, Mr Pomian decided something had to be done to commemorate the presence of Jews in Poland, who, he says, "have shared our history for centuries". In 1991, Mr Pomian set up the Page of History Foundation, which aimed to install works of art in towns where Jews once lived as gestures of remembrance "from Poles towards Polish Jews".

Two weeks ago, a monument was unveiled in the town of Gora Kalwaria as a tribute to the Jewish community that once existed there. It was the fourth artwork to be unveiled by the Page of History Foundation; the other three are in Lodz, Szydlow and Zamosc.

The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, said in a speech that the sculpture, which depicts Adam and Eve, was meant to remind people that all humans are equal. "We all have common roots and we were all created by the same God," he said.

Michael Schweyzer, personal secretary to the Polish President and the local mayor Dariusz Zielinki joined Mr Pomian for the ceremony.

The Page of History Foundation is a unique endeavour in that it targets only private funds within Poland. "This has to be a gesture directly from Polish society to Jews," says Mr Pomian.

"We want these artworks to be of the highest quality so that they will have a lasting presence, and take their inspiration from the Old Testament, which is sacred to both Jews and Christians."

Last updated: 2:09pm, October 6 2011