By: Tsvi Plachinski

Here I stand in pouring rain in NOWY DWOR, in W, the city's main street and wait for the Gedera students to arrive. From far away I see the entrance of 3 large tourist buses into the city, and I am very excited, especially when I comprehend that it is the first time an Israeli Jewish group of youngsters enters this city with pride. This was not seen here, ever since my father had left the city on the first year of WWII.

The buses stop beside me, and Gil the guide and Medy the head of the delegation disembark. We hug, I see they are very excited, and I understand they now see that everything I had told them before comes to life.

Due to the heavy rain, and since the students are wet after a rainy visit to the Warsaw cemetery, we decide to leave them on the buses, and give them a bus tour of the street, including watching the house in Sukienka street which resemble the Plachinski house that was bombed during the war. I stand and point at the house while the buses stop one by one, and the guides tell it to the students inside the bus.

Our next stop is the local gym, where we are supposed to meet the local high school students, teachers, head masters and the local town leadership. My wife Orna and myself enter the gym first. We can see the excitement of the local students faces. They prepared a nice brochure describing the city's cooperation in revealing the head stones and the annual essay competition about tolerance. They welcome us warmly, when they understand we are Plachinski, the organizers of this meeting. Before we realize and grasp the fact this meeting is really happening, a few of the teachers approach us and present themselves. They ask us to organize the same kind of meeting next year with their school.
The local students sit and wait our students, and suddenly I realize it's really happening. After months of preparations it's really happening.

Shortly after us, the Israeli students arrive and start entering the gym. They are very excited and also very curious to see the faces of the students who were writing to them on Facebook prior to this meeting.
The students mix with the local students, we can see they converse with each other.



After everyone had settled down, Gil, the guide, came to and told me that contrary to what we have decided before, I, Tsvika, will conduct the meeting, present myself to the Israeli students and tell them the story of my father, and his family's history in Nowy Dwor. This was supposed to be told near the old houses of Sukienka Street, but cancelled because of the rain. We asked our hosts permission to speak a little bit in Hebrew, and explain the Israeli students why we are in Nowy Dwor. They ofcourse agree. I talked about my father, his childhood in NOWY DWOR, how he swam in the Narew and Visla, and about his large family (1000 relatives) who lived there since the 18th century. I also talked about his draft to the Polish army and how he fought the Nazis and captured by them. Then he managed to escape the capture, returned to NOWY DWOR and tried to convince his father to leave Poland and go to Russia. His father refused, and after long discussions agreed to send only his unmarried sons.
I also mentioned to the Israeli students they are the first Israel Jewish group arriving to NOWY DWOR to represent an Israeli school. This was never seen in NOWY DWOR ever since my father had left NOWY DWOR in the 30's. I could see the excitement on their faces.



Following my speech, the Polish students took over and welcomed the Israeli delegation. They spoke about Nowy Dwor and it's history. Mayor Kowalski had also spoken to everyone.

A presentation was shown about the Jewish people's history in Nowy Dwor before the holocaust. All this was conducted in both Polish and English. Afterwards, the head of the Israeli delegation, Mrs. Medi Kan, had spoken and
thanked the hosts on the warm welcome. An Israeli student had read an essay in English. Afterwards, a presentation was shown about Israel, and the about our town, Gedera. Medi, thanking the mayor and the city again, presents the mayor with a framed photo of the Israeli delegation. A similar photo was given also to the local hosting high school. The bottom of the photo had greetings in Polish (translated courtesy of one of Tsvika's friends, originates in Poland..). The Polish hosts were very surprised and happy to read it.

The official ceremony comes to an end, and the youngsters happily mixed and helped themselves to some refreshments. We couldn’t tell which one is which, they all look the same, young, beautiful and happy. All boundaries fell immediately, and they chat with each other, exchange addresses and dance Hora together. Amazing!
At this point we understood we are not keeping our schedule, and we must go to the cemetery for the ceremony. We drove to the cemetery to check that all was in place as we asked of the local municipality (Jacek Gereluk was more than helpful here).



We arrived there, suddenly the rain stopped! We saw flags of Israel, Poland and the USA. Microphones were ready for the ceremony. As I entered the cemetery, the oldest citizen of Nowy Dwor approached me, with a translator, and asked me if I am Plachinski. I said yes, and he said he remembered my father. I was very moved.

The Polish students had decided to join us. Also teachers and local citizens came for the ceremony. The Israeli buses arrived, and the students disembarked and went around the head stones wall to read what was written in Hebrew on them. We have waited for the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich to arrive, and we were not sure he would make it on time. We had previously invited the Israeli ambassador, Mr. Tsvi Ravner, but we were not sure he will make it, and so we didn’t notify it to any of the delegation. Surprisingly he arrived on time, and was very happy to see all the students. He approached me and we had a nice chat. I thanked him for his honorable presence. I presented to him the head of the delegation and the guides. At this point they informed me they have decided to change the schedule.
The delegation was supposed to be in Nowy Dwor for a very short time, but now, after they saw the ambassador, and later the chief Rabbi and also the warm welcome and excitement, they decided to stay longer, as much as it takes.
The ceremony started. The Israeli ambassador had gritted the students from both countries and the escorts, both in Hebrew and Polish. He had emphasized the importance of such a visit for the future of both countries and the young people who are the future.



The Chief Rabbi followed and spoke about the reviving of the Jewish community in Poland, and said a chapter in Psalms. Afterwards he said Kadish and all the Jewish audience prayed with him. It was very moving.

After the Rabbi's speech I read something I wrote in Hebrew, and Beata, the deputy head mistress of the school read the same translated to Polish (again, courtesy of my friend who translated it for me). Attached what I read, translated into English, at the end of this essay.

After my speech, the Israeli delegation had conducted a ceremony they prepared. They read some poems, and sang songs. At the end, both the Israeli and the Polish anthems were sung. To my knowledge, it was the first time the Tikva was sung in Nowy Dwor. It was very very very moving. During the ceremony I could notice here and there an Israeli student and teacher wipe a tear.

The Israeli students had each brought a stone from Israel to place against the wall, and wrote some words on it, like names of family members who died in the holocaust. My daughter Arava wrote on it what my father used to say: "I have no vengeance feelings, you, my family are my revenge against the Nazis." They also lit some candles.

After that we all went up to the cemetery grounds. They were all shocked by the terrible state the cemetery was in. Now they completely comprehend what was done to the cemetery by the Nazis.

The visit to Nowy Dwor was ended. The Israeli delegation said goodbye to the local hosts, went on the buses and departed towards Warsaw. Orna and me followed the buses till they left town, and felt very proud of this visit,
and the good impression it had left on everyone.
All this remarkable and unusual day could not have come through without the help and support of Ze'ev Shaked, who had asked the ambassador and the Rabbi to come to Nowy Dwor, and linked between us and the local municipality of Nowy Dwor, Mayor Jacek Kowalski, Jacek Gereluk and Beata Kisiel from the local high school. We got a moral support from the Wluka family, who encouraged us along the way. We wish all of them could have been there, but they certainly were in our hearts the whole day.




Here is what I read at the Nowy Dwor cemetery:

Shalom everyone,
My name is Tsvika Plachinski and I am the son of Shimon Plachinski who was born in Nowy Dwor in 1920, grew up and was educated in Nowy Dwor and lived here till the age of 20. The Plachinski family had lived in Nowy Dwor from the end of the 18th century until 1941. My family members who passed away before 1941 are buried here in this cemetery, including one of my father's brothers.
You have visited today the Warsaw cemetery that exists for 200 years. Before hand this cemetery here had severed the Warsaw community as well, as there was no cemetery there.
Last year, my daughter found through Facebook some members of our family we never met before. When we started corresponding with them, we found out they are in the midst of rebuilding this cemetery in cooperation with the city of Nowy Dwor, lead by Mayor Kowalski and my family members from the USA, Mr. Ze'ev Shaked and Mr. David Wluka – whom we found on Facebook.
This cemetery was destroyed. On this place where we now stand was a huge hole in the ground. A large amount of sand was taken from here by the Nazis for building purposes. This hole was filled last year by sand brought from Warsaw. It was dug from the foundations of the new Jewish Museum that was constructed on the Jewish Ghetto ground in Warsaw.
The head stones you see here were dug out of a Nowy Dwor street with the help of Mayor Kowalski. They were used by the Nazis to builds roads, water canals etc. Since it was not known to which grave this stones belong, it was decided to build this wall to commemorate the Jewish cemetery and community. The wall and fence around the cemetery were enabled by donations collected from families who survived the holocaust and other generous people, and the great help of Rabbi Schudrich. Among the head stones you can see one that belongs to my family member, Mr  Jacob Tyk, you can see his family photo here. (The guide Gil held it up to show to the audience).

On the other photo, on the right side you can see my great grandmother, Gella Plachinski, who participated in a funeral of a Jewish soldier who was killed during his service in the Russian Tsar army. This funeral took place in this very cemetery. My great grandmother reached a grand age, and she is also buried here. Last year we participated here in the dedication of this cemetery and this impressive wall. This ceremony was both important and moving. At the end of that ceremony I have decided to try and bring together young people from Nowy Dwor and Israeli Jewish youth, to connect between past, present and future. The fact that we all stand together in this place is making a personal dream come true. I hope this is also a small contribution to create connections between the students, and strengthen connections between the two nations.
I want to thank each and every one who contributed to organizing this meeting, both from the Israeli and the Polish side. Special thanks to the Israeli ambassador and the Chief Rabbi of Poland, to Medi Kan head of the delegation, Mayor Kowalski, his deputy Jacek Gereluk and Beata Kisiel, and the Israeli guides. 

Apologies if I forgot someone. Thank you very much.

3rd Gedera Israel-Nowy Dwor Student Meetings

From Tsvika Plachinski:

I have just come back from Nowy Dwor from the third Israeli – Polish meeting. I don't know how to express my feelings. The meeting was very moving and actually I couldn't stop my tears seeing more than 90 Jewish – Israeli students and more than 15 escorts, entering the city "walking tall" and with no fear, marching into the Jewish cemetery with Israeli flags, and hearing the Tikva were especially moving. After hearing the Nowy Dwor story, the headmaster from Gedera, decided to come to Nowy Dwor herself even though she was not part of the delegation. She was very moved by the meetings between the Israeli and Polish students and by the cemetery ceremonies. I also invited teachers and students from Serock, the town where my grandmother was born, and they came with their headmaster. At the end of the day, the Serock headmaster and teachers ask me to arrange a similar meeting with their students. This is especially pleasing because it will be the children who will lead us out of the depths of hatred and intolerance that became the Holocaust and the plague that continues around the world today targeting us all. I was pleased and proud of how well the cemetery was prepared. It was very clean, fresh flowers and candles were everywhere, and the Israeli and Polish flags stood next to each other. I want to especially express my gratitude to Ze'ev Shaked, who met and paid the contractor for preparing the cemetery for this event. As I write, I have tears again, tears of joy and hope for us all as I watch these beautiful children from both countries talk, sing, and play with each other.