Thanks so much for tuning into my blog on the latest happenings in my trip in Eastern Europe. In this post, I’m going to update you all on my closing days in Belarus and entrance into Poland (I just crossed the border today!) These past few days have been mind blowing and thought provoking because my own understandings of borders, in all mediums, have changed.
On Sunday, our helix group had the chance to visit a town in Eastern Europe that in particular has a lot of meaning for me. Our group visited the old city of Navahrudak in Belarus, which was the home to some of my favorite historical heroes – the Bielski brothers, leaders of the Bielski partisans during World War II.
The Bielskis (Tuvia, Zus, Asael, and Aron) were four brothers who, after witnessing the death of their parents and family members at the hand of the Nazis, fled into the forest in Belarus to start a camp and combat unit that would take in any one who wanted protection and help local Soviet partisan movements in the fight against the Nazis. The brothers saved Jews from ghettos all over Belarus and by the end of the war had saved 1,236 people. Their mission was to survive and to leave nobody behind. They were by far one of the most successful partisan movements in the war and I look up to the brothers as heroes.
The following day, our group visited and explored the city of Grodno in Belarus. Grodno is a beautiful, pleasant city with a history that is very interesting. With a population that used to be over 60% Jewish, the history of Jewish culture in the city thrives with the memory from the locals. One of these locals, a man named Boris has dedicated his life to saving and restoring Belarus’s last standing Jewish choral synagogue. Walking inside the large white synagogue was amazing because on one hand, the synagogue is crumbling – with floors caving in and walls lacking paint, half of the building is completely unfinished. Yet on the other hand, this old synagogue is growing as more and more people come to visit it and donate money to see it refurbished. I hope that one day this synagogue can be completely finished so that the Jewish population in Grodno can enjoy it. Until that day, I will always appreciate what it stands for – that Grodno does not forget its Jews and is working every day to rebuild the culture it once had.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings as I will be exploring the old city of Bialystok with the Helix project and thanks so much for reading.
All the best,