by George J Elbaum
Zespol Szkol No. 112 Gimnazjum No. 32 (named after poet Adam Asnyk) is located in Warsaw’s Praga district, on the east bank of the Wisla river, and my presentation there was organized by its English teacher Yvonne Saleta. Since her students also study history, she emailed me that “it would be very interesting for them to have a real history lesson in English.” To prepare her students for my presentation and make them more aware of the Holocaust, Ms. Saleta launched them into several projects on the subject of hatred, such as taking them to a theater to see a monodrama of Ann Frank’s diary and also having them compose and prepare anti-war posters. (Her explanation: “The happenings in Ukraine have had a great impact on all of us. We talk to our students, discuss possible scenarios. We naively thought that war was not possible in our region now. How disappointed we all are….”) This preparation resulted in an engaged student audience as shown by their subsequent questions. The relative fluency of their questions as well as their one-on-one comments to me during the book signing showed me that I need not have worried about their English – since they expressed themselves in English quite well, they surely understood it also quite well.
My presentation was attended by Ms. Saleta and her students, teachers Agnieszka Galaszewska and Renata Wilczynska, vice principal Jolanta Kudlak and principal Wojciech Nasilowski. In addition, Ms. Saleta also invited students and officials from some nearby schools, resulting in an audience of approximately 100.
After the presentation and signing my books for the students, we joined our gracious hosts for a special lunch of Polish family-style cooking which the school’s cook had prepared for us. It was a wonderful sign of their warm hospitality and we thoroughly enjoyed it.