As a perigrino who likes to see himself as he wishes to be – running towards the flames, I was pulled towards Auschwitz like a magnet draws bits of iron filings. But it was not to be. Yes I had an entire day in Poland to explore and wander, but frighteningly close train and bus schedules, and only a very small fraction of those I had encountered today were able to speak English. And so navigating in another language through train and bus transfers (both directions), some with less than a ten minute transfer time left me uncharacteristically afraid to chance the unknown. Maybe I’m finally acting my age and displaying atypical common sense. They call it Xenophobia, the fear of the unknown or uncertain.
Regardless, as the only train that could have begun this version of today pulled away, I felt so disappointed in myself, almost embarrassed at my lack of courage.
But what was the draw there anyway? I’m not Polish, German or Jewish. Why the overreaction? Well you aren’t required to be black to get meaning from the horrors of slavery recalled by museums and statues. But more than that; my father and an entire generation, the greatest generation, risked and gave all in WWII. It wasn’t only about genocide, but to these folks it was.
And to three million who have fled Cherson and Marioepol, Bucha and Melitopol, and probably Odessa next week, it also feels a lot like genocide.
Maybe I “tapped the brakes” because of the horrors that might lay before me later this week in Ukraine. I didn’t need a prologue.
Tomorrow will mainly be 14 hours spent on a bus to the border; passports, currency and more language issues, and explaining to the border police that nine boxes of surgical supplies and medicines are not threatening: neither weapons nor narcotics.
Will be interesting.