Sunday, September 1: On the way to Poland

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Binyamina train station

I'd planned everything to the last detail: train times - check; Polish weather conditions - check; suitcase packed, unpacked, repacked, shoes dilemma resolved - check; house alarm on, front door locked - check and, leaving my car outside my daughter's house for retrieval on my return from Poland, I walked briskly to the station. 

The train arrived on time.

It was pleasant to sit on the train knowing I'd arrive at Ben Gurion airport three full hours before my flight to Warsaw. It's so rare that I am captive to empty hours in which I can read, physically browse the duty free without any intent to buy, eat. But! Always expect the unexpected.  The train stopped 20 minutes out of Binyamina because the handicapped were holding a demonstration. And they were doing it across the railway lines.

I have much sympathy for people whose monthly stipend fails to cover their basic living expenses. More than sympathy - it's bad enough being handicapped without having the wherewithal to support your needs. Hell, I'm a pensioner and I'd demonstrate too if I wasn't so busy earning money to cover my monthly expenses. But sympathy morphed to outright anger as we hapless passengers sat in our immobile train, with no way to control the situation.

My stomach churned and my heartbeat was panicked. I was going to miss my flight. Maybe it's because we plan a visit to Auschwitz on our first day in Krakov, but I wondered if transported by time to a vastly different destination, if my body would be experiencing the same levels of stress as those caused by a mere thwarting of my travel plans.

The train moves a few meters into a station and we pile out. I see several people with suitcases, which I take to mean they too are on their way to Ben Gurion airport. "Let's share a taxi," I suggest to a woman with an outsize suitcase. "Can't," she says, "I'm being picked up by friends. No, no room for you." I shuffle together with the disembarked passengers to the exit, drop my ticket, almost fall over my shoelace. The universe is very unkind to me today. Once outside, there is one lone taxi, its driver surrounded by anxious people with suitcases. 

I cajole, rant and am finally allowed to squeeze into the back seat between a couple who is flying to Turkey. The taxi driver takes an exorbitant amount of money from his desperate passengers and we crawl out onto the highway. It's Sunday morning; soldiers are returning to their units, kids are going back to school after a long, hot vacation and people wending their way to work are held up by hood-to-bumper Sunday morning traffic. But then the road suddenly opens up and we get to the airport a full two hours before my flight.

The universe has not had enough fun with me yet. The flight to Warsaw is delayed by four hours. What about the connecting flight to Krakov? That's delayed too. I'll arrive around midnight.

The airline gave me a voucher for pizza and a soft drink. I'd prefer a double shot of whiskey.

Monday: The first day

Monday: Auschwitz-Birkenau

Monday: Auschwitz-Birkenau (continued)

Tuesday: Chmielnik

Tuesday: DSS HQ

Wednesday: Lodz Ghetto

Thursday: Warsaw Ghetto

Friday: Warsaw, Okopowa cemetery

Friday: Polin Museum

Historical Snippets


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Historical snippets

(Culled from statements by Tomasz: from Gabrielle). The Jews arrived in Poland over 900 years ago, fleeing persecution, primarily from Prague. As they were skilled in commerce and trade, they served a