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With Chavka Folman-Raban in Warsaw at the 70th Anniversary Events for the Ghetto Uprising

From left to right:  Dr. Anat Livne, Raya Kalisman, Magdalena Zaczek, and Chavka (seated)
From left to right: Dr. Anat Livne, Raya Kalisman, Magdalena Zaczek, and Chavka (seated)

The Municipality of Warsaw recently invited us to participate in the program of events held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  I had the honor of traveling with Chavka Folman-Raban and Dr. Anat Livne, director of the Ghetto Fighters’ House.

The official events were sponsored by the government. On April 18th there was a gala evening that included a concert in the Grand Theatre auditorium of Warsaw’s National Opera House. The opening remarks mentioned all the important invitees, asking each to stand.  When Chavka's name was called, she was greeted with cheers from the audience. Chavka was also invited to the main ceremony the following day, in the presence of Poland’s President, Bronislaw Bomorwski, the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and Israel’s Minister of Education, Shai Piron,  who represented the Israeli government. The ceremony was held beside the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, opposite the newly constructed Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This was a state ceremony that began with a siren, included official speeches and a military squad firing a salut. At the reception that followed, inaugurating the Museum, Warsaw’s Mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz,  warmly clasped Chavka’s hand and asked to hear about her past.



State Ceremony at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes

Here I want to tell about two unofficial events, no less impressive, in which we participated by invitation of Chavka’s Polish friends. Both events touched on preserving the memory of Marek Edelman, a leader of the ghetto uprising and who had remained in postwar Poland. The first was held on April 18 on one of Warsaw’s streets that had once been inside the ghetto. The municipality allocated the wall of one of the buildings to the organizers.  Here, they painted a mural with a portrait of the young Marek Edelman and a quote of his on the importance of freedom and the need to defend it even at the cost of one’s life. Many people gathered at this spot for the inauguration of this special monument, patiently waiting their turn to stencil on the wall beneath the mural the outline of a daffodil: the symbol of the uprising’s 70th anniversary. The crowd, invited through social networking, included people from all ages, old and young, couples with baby strollers, children who ran around among their elders, some in eveningwear to attend the gala concert, and many wearing black shirts imprinted with the mural’s image of Edelman holding a yellow daffodil, which was his personal memorial custom. Then calmly, and in no particular order, a group of teenage girls mounted an improvised stage and sang “The Partisan Song” in Yiddish, followed by a duo with guitar and drum, a well-known actress who recited a text, and several brief speeches. This event gathered together those who believe in humanity and freedom – and only the presence of many uniformed policemen who were there to ensure security, connected it to the here and now.

At the inauguration of the special monument for Marek Edelman. 
From left to right:  Chavka, Paula Sawicka, Paula's grandson and daughter

The next day, April 19, after the formal ceremony, we were invited to an “Open House” by Paula Sawicka. For many years she accompanied Marek Edelman and in his declining years took him into her home and cared for him devotedly until his death in 2009. Hundreds of people attended the Open House to preserve his memory. Many attempted to get Chavka’s attention, to bring up memories with her, to tell about a book they wrote, to express concern for her well-being and wanting to hear news of Israel and the kibbutz - Warsaw at its best!!!
Raya Kalisman,
Founder Director of the Center for Humanistic Education at the Ghetto Fighters' Museum


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