Wanderlust: Warsaw

Jay Michael in Warsaw

For most of my life, exploring Poland was something I had yearned to do, but continued to put off, as I knew I couldn’t go without really focusing on my Polish family and religious roots. Although my mother was born and raised in Chicago, her parents were immigrants from Poland in the 1920’s. Their immigration was years before the war, but their move was triggered by religious persecution, and even though they may have left at the right time, much of their family and people were not as lucky. So this trip was more than just my typical exploration, it was a way to face the tragedies of WW2 head on while finding forgiveness.


On March 17th, I grabbed my 76 year old  mother and embarked on a mission to trace our Polish Jewish roots from Warsaw to Auschwitz, and on to Austria and Hungary — what I now call the Jewish Road. A rough road to take, but a very real one that nearly 6 million of my ancestors courageously took before me without return flights to the U.S. (as we are so blessed to have today).


The second we landed and entered the city we immediately knew we were in post-war Eastern Europe. Most of the city was destroyed by WW2 (and many other occupations), so there is a very communist, dreary-look and feel to the newer 50’s buildings mixed in with a few beautiful pre-war antiquities covered in smut bearing shrapnel wounds.  The Polish will tell you Warsaw was once as beautiful as Paris, and from the looks of the buildings that remain from before the war, they may be right. It wasn’t until we arrived to the Old City Center when I really saw the breathtaking grandeur of Warsaw….a center to rival Trafalgar Square (but without the tourists), leading to picturesque cobblestone side streets that can only be compared to a Christmas village snow globe.


There are many moving Holocaust memorials in Warsaw. Some come in the form of massive monuments and others in the form of a small gold plaque erected on the last remaining piece of the wall that once divided the Jewish Ghetto, very near to the point were my ancestors were marched  to the train that would, in most cases, transport them to their last days alive.

Wanderlust Warsaw Collage

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *