November 12, 2015: 3rd annual Israeli and Nowy Dwor students meeting at the monument

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.

 

 

June 18, 2014: Dedication of the Yahrzeit Wall and the Second Annual Essay Contest

On June 18, 2014 we dedicated our new memorial (Yarzheit) wall at the Nowy Dwor Cemetery. The recovery and display of the stolen headstones and restoration of the cemetery dedicated in 2011 was a great achievement. However, it related to the Jews of Nowy Dwor who died before the Holocaust. We had no memorial to those who were torn from their home town and killed in the Holocaust.

 

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November 5, 2012 - Israeli Students Travel to Nowy Dwor

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.

July 2012: Headstones Returned to Cemetery by Nowy Dwor Citizen


Grzegorz Grzybowski (2nd from the left in the photo – along with Ze’ev, David and Joseph) the contractor who designed and built the wall and plaza at the cemetery received a Matzevah (headstone) from a Nowy Dwor citizen. There are other partial and full headstones scattered around the city that had been used for walls, walkways, etc. The Mayor’s office has undertaken a program to encourage people who have these to turn them in to the city and receive replacement blocks or decorative pavers in return. Provided additional funds become available, this beautiful stone (above), along with others, will be included in the next phase of the Nowy Dwor Project, construction of a 2nd wall to accommodate the additional Matzevot that are being uncovered or returned to us

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June 27, 2012: Second Annual Nowy Dwor Essay on Tollerance Competition

This was a special day in Nowy Dwor and is evidence of the continuing and lasting impact of the Nowy Dwor Project on the people of Nowy Dwor. First, Rabbi Schudrich came to the Jewish cemetery and prayed with Josef at the Memorial. The Mayor and Vice Mayor were there with Michal Nawrot and other Nowy Dwor residents including teachers and school directors. As you can see the cemetery is in great shape.

Then the essay reading awards ceremony took place at one of the high schools and Josef gave a very moving speech in Polish causing many students to have tears in their eyes. He also provided greetings on our behalf and each of the 25 students who participated got a thank you letter. Now formalized, it is our hope that this competition will become an annual event that the students, parents and citizens of Nowy Dwor will look forward to.

 

May 21, 2012: Generation After Report

Report by Generation After (GA) Vice President, Genie Glucksman, to the Greater Washington DC chapter on the Nowy Dwor Project presentation at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Fellow 2nd Generation David Wluka gave an inspirational presentation about efforts he spearheaded to "recreate" a sanctified Jewish cemetery of Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki, Poland. The seeds for a plan to reclaim a totally obliterated cemetery which had existed since the Middle Ages germinated after a trip to his ancestral homeland in 1988 with his late father, Holocaust survivor activist Icek Wluka, and other family members. When they went to visit the site of the former Jewish cemetery, they found an abandoned gravel and sand quarry. During WWII the Nazis had most of the headstones ripped from the ground to be used as road stabilizing construction material and what was left either deteriorated from neglect or was further vandalized by the local population.
The Nowy Dwor Jewish Memorial project, founded by direct descendants of Nowy Dwor Jews, was created in 2009. In the course of routine utility work nearby in 2010, a dozen headstones were discovered and rescued. Since then, more than 100 matzevot (headstones) and remnants of headstones were recovered, many in remarkably good condition and fully legible. Since their original location could not be determined and the original topography of the cemetery had been totally altered during its years as a quarry, the headstones were returned to the cemetery property in the form of a wall and plaza. A new stairway permits people to view the remains of what was once the resting place of one of Poland's most vibrant Jewish communities and the center of Judaic publishing.

The presentation to Generation After members and other guests, from the perspective of a loving son of two Holocaust survivors, was inspirational; this respectful and appropriate tribute came to fruition through the generosity of people from around the world and the support and assistance of the Mayor and municipal government of Nowy Dwor. Dedication ceremonies for the first phase of the project were held on July 14, 2011, with Chief Rabbi of Poland Schudrich officially reconsecrating the cemetery grounds. Visit the website www.nowydworjewishmemorial.com to follow the story and progress toward the ultimate goal. David shared this website that describes the situation of other Jewish cemeteries in Poland: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thanks so much to David and a contribution to the Nowy Dwor Jewish Memorial Project will be made by the Generation After.

May 17, 2012: Presentation at the Polish Embassy

The Nowy Dwor Project was presented at the Polish Embassy to the United States in Washington, DC at a special evening event. David Wluka of Boston, accompanied by Nancy & Zachary Wluka, and Ze'ev Shaked from Texas told the story of the restoration and dedication of the cemetery. Michael and Allen Wluka, their families from Boston, cousin Kenny Ames from Washington DC, and cousins Tsvika & Orna Plachinski from Israel came to DC just for the event.

Members of the DC Jewish community as well as academics working on Holocaust related programs attended and participated in a lively discussion followed by a dinner provided by the Embassy.

First Secretary Witold Dzielski coordinated and hosted the evening on behalf of the Ambassador. He commented that “This is a most important event that shows how big a difference a small group of people can make with vision and determination."

 

 

May 20, 2011: The Restoration Begins

Dear Friends,

The cemetery project is progressing nicely. In April, I traveled to Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki and then to Israel. The objectives of the trip were to initiate the second phase of the project (construction of the memorial wall), to finalize plans for the July 13 and 14 dedication events in Nowy Dwor, and to continue and expand the fund-raising campaign.

The construction of the fence and gates is complete and the cemetery is now closed to trespassers with the locked gates. I met with the construction company to finalize the design for the memorial wall. We are getting close. You can see the latest proposal below. The plan is to complete the construction of the memorial in time for July’s events.

 

 

With Michal’s Nawrot assistance and support, I met a number of times with the leaders of the City of Nowy Dwor to discuss the status of our project and all the logistics for the July events. The City of Nowy Dwor enthusiastically supports our efforts and is assisting us in a number of ways. The Mayor of Nowy Dwor, Mr. Kowalski and his Vice Mayor, Mr. Gereluk have made a personal commitment to ensure the success of July events. This includes generating the invitations, inviting Polish dignitaries and Ambassadors, sponsoring a bus tour of Nowy Dwor and other sites, and promoting a competition among the local high schools on essays with the theme “Tolerance and Dialog.”

Through David Wluka’s efforts, while I was in Warsaw, I was able to meet with the US Ambassador to Poland, the Honorable Lee Feinstein, and First Secretary (US Embassy) Mr. Craig Conway. Mr. Feinstein has expressed his wholehearted support of our project, and representatives of the American Embassy will participate in the July 14 ceremony.

In Warsaw, I met again with the Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Schudrich, to discuss our project and July’s events. Rabbi Schudrich will lead the ceremony on July 14, and key leaders of the Jewish community in Poland will attend.

I had a long phone call with the Ambassador of Israel to Poland, the Honorable Zvi Rav-Ner; he is also trying to assist us in a number of ways. The Ambassador and some members of his staff will attend the ceremony on July 14.

During my visit to Warsaw I was invited by Mr. Krzysztof Bielawski to participate in the ceremony to commemorate the 68th anniversary of Ghetto Warsaw uprising. Mr. Bielawski, who works at the Jewish Museum, was one of the recipients of the medal honoring Polish citizens who dedicate their efforts to the improvement of Polish-Jewish relations and to fighting anti-Semitism.
I was also introduced to Mr. Andzej Folwarczny, the President of the “Forum for Dialog Among Nations,” and we discussed the Polish-Jewish relations past and present. Mr. Bielawski and Folwarczny will participate in July’s ceremonies.

We are currently working on finalizing the program for the evening of July 13. The tentative program includes a talk by Abram Shul on the Jewish life in Nowy Dwor before the war, awarding the prizes for the best two high school essays, and surprise appearances to highlight the cultural Jewish life of pre-war Poland.

Through David Wluka’s initiative of “Sponsor a Matzeva” and generous donations from David and his family and other descendents and friends, we have been able to raise the necessary funds to begin the construction of the memorial. Completing the memorial will require significant additional funds. The proposed design can be viewed on the website.

The first Website
Jordana Wluka-Bishop graciously donated her time and website-building expertise to our cause, and patiently endured all my and others’ “advice.” Thank you very much, Jordana, for your commitment and for a great job.


Hotel Reservations: We have made hotel reservation for those of you who requested them, and have reserved a few extra rooms, in case more are needed. The name of the hotel is Top Hotel; it is a brand new hotel in Nowy Dwor. The address is:
Top Hotel
Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki
ul. Paderewskiego 1C
Tel: +48-505-466-533; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

On behalf of the Organizing Committee,

Thank you and all the best,
Ze’ev

July 2011 Dedication

Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki High School Essay Competition on Tolerance.

VIDEOS

The beginning of the excavation of the Matzevot in 2010 via YouTube (Polish)
Personal video of Memorial Wall and Ceremony posted by Slawomir Kalinowski via YouTube (Ze'ev Shaked's remarks are in English at 11:45 on the counter.)
Ceremony Presentations July 14 via YouTube (Polish & English)

 

Michal Nawrot, Wiesia Nawrot, Ze’ev Shaked,
Grzegorz Grzybowski, David Wluka and Yosef Kieliszek
 
The Front of the Memorial Wall
 
The Israeli Ambassador places flowers on the Front Wall
 
The Back of the Memorial Wall
 

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