by George J Elbaum
XXXIII Szkola Podstawowa No. 260 named for the painter Jan Matejko is located in Mokotow on the southern edge of central Warsaw, only a few blocks from the primary school that I attended before leaving for the U.S. in 1949. This was my 3rd talk in the school (in 2014, 2017 and again now, but the school’s name has been changed recently from the previous Gimnazjum No. 3 named for Marshall Jozef Pilsudski.) The event was once again organized by Violetta Tarnowska, the energetic and idealistic teacher of Polish and English. Some years ago she noticed that students were becoming less and less aware and interested in Warsaw’s history before and during WWII and she wanted to ensure that they learn and remember it, including that of its pre-war Jewish community (which was 1/3 of Warsaw’s total population) and of the Holocaust. She therefore welcomed and organized my first talk in her school in May 2014 and invited students from other gimnazjums plus representatives of Warsaw school authorities, resulting in an audience of almost 200. Because my first talk in her school would be in English, I was concerned about the need for translation, but Ms. Tarnowska assured me that most of the students were sufficiently competent in English so only unique words or terms would need translation and she would provide for it. Indeed, all went smoothly without extra translation each of the 3 times.
After her successful organization of my May 2014 presentation Ms. Tarnowska continued her interest in providing a broad and balanced education for her students, so in July 2016 she accepted a month-long internship in Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity to broaden her knowledge. On her return to Warsaw she launched a project with her students consisting of 1,500 hand-painted stones to commemorate the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust, and she personally placed it in the Treblinka Museum in Treblinka. Then, when I informed her of my interest to return to Warsaw in May 2017 to once again give talks in Warsaw schools she volunteered to arrange these talks, and this was repeated again for the current talk to which she invited students and teachers from 4 more schools: Gimnazjum Przymierza Rodzin im. Jana Pawła II, Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Jarosława Dąbrowskiego, Liceum im. Miguela de Cervantesa, and Liceum im. Romualda Traugutta. For this visit to Warsaw she also arranged my talks at Liceum Kopernika and Liceum Bednarska. I very much appreciate her excellent efforts, the resulting contacts with so many Warsaw students, and their warm feedback.
Ms. Tarnowska introduced my presentation in her school, which was also attended by the school’s Director Barbara Rosz, and English teacher Magda Cieślik.