So here’s how it all happened:
Last Thursday, I flew in Los Angeles with literally every fear in the world. I’m not going to list them all out, but I think I was terrified most of all because I thought I would feel alone on my trip. However, after arriving in Los Angeles and meeting the group of students that I would be travelling with for the next 3 weeks, I instantly knew that I was indeed not alone – I am surrounded by the BEST support group.
To start, I just want to say that the students I am travelling with as a part of the Helix project are some of the most amazing intellectuals, and overall people, I have ever met. I’ve only known this group of 12 for less than a week, yet I can truly say that I have been touched by each of them and have developed lasting friendships already.
The flight was yesterday was extremely long. I flew on 3 different planes, with 2 layovers and after 25 hours of travel, I was literally crying tears of joy when I saw my suitcase appear at the baggage claim when we landed in Minsk. Arriving in Eastern Europe was a bit overwhelming for me, but I was also so so so excited.
- Before World War I, Minsk was over 50% Jewish. It and the city of Vilnius, Lithuania were epicenters of Jewish culture and life. It was a place where Jews thrived in an intellectual, spiritual, hardworking community.
- During World War II, 85% of Minsk the city was destroyed by the Nazis. The Nazis burned everything in their trail - homes, religious centers, universities and viciously killed both Jews and Belorussians alike.
- Belarus today has a very small Jewish population, as after the war most remaining Jews moved west. However this small country does not ever forget the affects of WWII and I cannot begin to explain how many monuments they have recounting its shadow. Although Jews do not really live in Minsk, the city educates its students about the Holocaust and celebrates the heroes who stood up for the Jews and acted against Hitler.
We also visited the Jewish Museum in Minsk, where I learned about other Jewish figures that lived in Minsk. We then visited a Holocaust memorial in Minsk, and walked through one Minsk’s many forests. In the particular forest we walked through, its been documented that over 600,000 people were shot there before and during the 2nd World War. Most of the people shot were Jews and it was a rattling experience walking through what seemed to me a mass grave.
Now, I am sitting in my room, recalling this day with impactful memories I know will last. Eastern Europe is amazing I cannot wait to see what is next in the great journey I have this summer. Thanks so much for reading.
All the best,