- Hi Gayle,
I *did* make it to Tarnobrzeg, accompanied by my Polish friend Adam, who's from Chelm. We took the inter-city bus round trip from Krakow; 3 hrs each way. With the help of a taxi driver, we found the Jewish cemetery; it's just as it is in the photographs posted on the Jewish Gen site. Adam was able to talk with the old man across the street from the cemetery who keeps the key. He's 80 but very strong; he was digging a well in his backyard when we found him. He acted overjoyed to see a live Jew, and he seems very sweet; has about 4 teeth in his head. He said he had gone to school with Jews, remembers Jews; that the Nazis marched the Tarnobrzeg Jews to the east, to Russia. According to him, he planted all the trees in the cemetery himself, etc etc etc. The cemetery was overgrown, neglected; broken off tombstones, weeds, etc. Inside the little yellow shed, there were messages and prayers left in the sand. I felt the sorrow of the generations of Tarnobrzeg--and Polish--Jews, cut off from the present, neglected in broken cemeteries.
Adam was able to have us directed to the site of the former synagogue (there's a plaque in Polish marking the building); we learned that the houses around the Rynek had been originally owned by Jews. There's an old and very beautiful baroque Roman Catholic church---the inside like a jewel box; and of course, no shuls. The town is dreary now, economically depressed, high unemployment along with alcoholism. The folks I watched on the square were poorly dressed. The archives were closed, although the town hall was open, and still imposing looking.
I also went to the "New Cemetery" in Krakow; there too Adam was able to speak with the caretaker. He led us to the section listed for my grandmother's grave, but of course the grave wasn't there. The cemetery had also been destroyed by the Nazis, and it too (unlike the cemetery outside the Remuh Synagogue) was neglected and overgrown--tall grasses, brambles, broken tombstones, acres of nettles. By way of contrast, in both Krakow and Chelm a favorite Sunday family activity is taking flowers and memorial lights to the Catholic cemeteries and washing the gravestones. Those cemeteries were quite crowded with life.
Thanks for your help and encouragement; I am glad I made the journey--pilgrimage, really. It all was both satisfying and sorrowful; tragic.
With sincere wishes for a happy New Year,
Carole Gottlieb Vopat
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]