Before I get to my second day in Warsaw, I want to rewind to when Alex and I checked into the hotel on Sat. evening. The desk clerk noted that the reservation was only for one adult (my fault for booking at 2 am and not carefully double checking). I said that I knew this, but spoke to Starwood on the phone and they said it was fine to bring another person. She gave us the fish eye. "Do you want one queen bed or two twin beds?" she asked. I am fairly certain from the expression on her face that she was thinking, "Proszę, nie pochwy lizanie w pokoju."* We said two twins and she seemed relieved. Anyway, the twin beds have been good because they allow me to toss and turn with impunity. Digression over. Today we woke up early and dragged ourselves to the sub par gym. I rode a bike for 40 minutes, and Alex put in an hour. Then we cleaned ourselves up and set out in the light rain. After breakfast at a cafe, we went to the Jewish History Museum. My request for an English guide never went through, which wound up being fine. We went to the Genealogical Project of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation first and met with Anna Przybyszewska-Drozd. She was unable to find any new information about my family, but pulled out a directory from 1910 that lists my great grandfather. It said he was a tradesman and lived at Dobra 57. The 1930 directory did not list him at all. This makes sense since I think he died in the mid- to late 1920s. (If the grave I am looking for in the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery is really his, he died the day after my grandfather's 16th birthday, October 27, 1927. What is really weird is that my grandfather died on Oct. 27, 1995.) The family moved sometime between 1910 and 1939, as my grandfather's last address was Dobra 81. My great uncle, however, was not listed in either guide. Anna thought it might have been because he was Orthodox, but who knows? (One thing I really want to know was how religious my grandfather was, but I don't think I'll ever find this out.)
When I went to Dobra St. yesterday, I found an empty lot where 81 used to be. Anna was able to find a picture of his building (and Dobra 57) online. It was amazing to see where he lived. She also showed me a photo of the building my Great Aunt Doba and cousin Beila lived in before they died. She emailed me the photos and also a scan of the directories. She spent an hour with us looking in various databases. It seems that I will never be able to learn my great grandmother's maiden name or the married names of my great aunts Tema and Estera or anything about their children. However, I am very grateful for her help, especially since we just wandered in with no appointment.
After the research, Alex and I went to the Jewish Institute's exhibit on the Warsaw Ghetto. I already knew much of the horrendous conditions that people lived in, but it also mentioned that some people - smugglers and shop owners - lived fairly well. Still, the pictures, particularly of starving children begging on the street in rags and dead bodies lying on the sidewalk, worn down to flesh covered skeletons, was very upsetting. We also saw an exhibit of Jewish art that I was not particularly taken by. Before we left, I bought a book of photos of the Jews of Warsaw from the 1860s to 1943.
Alex and I ate a non-remarkable lunch, then some chocolate from a newsstand, then yogurt from a grocery store, then a doughnut with rose petal jam at a bakery, then felt sort of sick. We walked over to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which was more of a museum about Polish partisan fighters in general than Warsaw. It was very well designed, although overwhelming. The out of control school group did not help. The brats had no regard for any of the other patrons, pushing people aside and running around like they were in a playground, not a museum. When a security guard yelled at them, I told Alex that I hoped he told them to stop acting like fucking animals. He gave me a dirty look, too.
Our final destination of the day was a fancy restaurant that Husband's friend recommended for dinner. We arrived looking like drowned rats after our day of wandering in the rain. I'm sure this pleased them to no end. The food, though, was amazing. I had pork with plums and apples, mashed potatoes, and beets. (OK, so the beets were not amazing.) Alex had roast turkey with fabulous apricot and plum stuffing, currants, mashed potatoes, and beets. The meats were wheeled in on a cart and sliced by our tables, and the sides ladled onto our plates from various pots. It was cool. We also indulged in dessert. We spent a lot of time eavesdropping on the Americans, Brits, and Aussies sitting around us.
Tomorrow, a guide is picking us up at 10:30 to take us to Treblinka. It is supposed to be sunny. I am happy for the small things.
*According to google translate, this means, "Please, no vagina licking in the room."