Salt Mines and Krakow

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Wieliczka Salt Mine

It’s been a long, but wonderful day!  My morning started with breakfast where I sat and chatted with Eva for awhile along with a few others.  We had a fascinating conversation about forgiveness, reconciliation, and genocide (the Holocaust and other areas of the world, such as Rwanda, etc.)  I had a chance to ask Eva about her faith.  I asked her simply if she practiced her Jewish faith, and she said that she fully supported the temple and Jewish community in Terre Haute, but has never really considered herself a religious person.  Growing up, her father made she and her family say the Jewish prayers in Hebrew over and over again, and it seems that she was kind of “soured” by that early childhood experience and therefore didn’t really connect with her faith, or faith in God for that matter.  It’s interesting to me (and a lot of people!) that she doesn’t see or find it necessary for faith and forgiveness to be connected.  For Eva, forgiveness is about self-empowerment- something you do for yourself for inner peace, and it allows you to live a life that opens more doors than anything else you can do for yourself.  It’s really about the will of the mind and emotions of the heart- that’s where forgiveness comes from and that’s what it’s for.

We also discussed the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is sometimes one sided- meaning that YOU can forgive someone even if someone doesn’t forgive you in return or repent for their actions.  It’s about YOUR inner peace and strength.  Reconciliation, on the other hand, is a working of both parties to work toward forgiveness in order to reach a balanced goal of forgiveness- not necessarily getting along, but working for peace coming from both sides of an issue.

Eva’s “theology” (for lack of a better word) of forgiveness is something that takes awhile to understand, and not everyone agrees with her on it.  I feel like the more I hear her speak about it, the more I learn.  And forgiveness is always a process, especially for someone who has been through something traumatic such as Eva has.  She told me this morning that this year on the sorting platform at Auschwitz, she plans to read a letter of forgiveness that she wrote for her parents, who both perished there.  Her father was the one in the family who refused to leave their hometown upon hearing that the Nazis where going to come for even just one family- hers.  The fact that he refused to leave the country is a source of hurt and pain for her, since her family was indeed captured, and you know the rest of the story.  It will surely be an emotional day for her as she reads the letter, and it will be touching for all of us who will be there to hear it.

So…faith and forgiveness…are they connected?  Do they have to be or not?  Does it matter that they are (or not)?  This is something that I would like to explore more on this trip, and I plan to share my findings/feelings on this with all of you.

So the rest of the day was spent touring- we first went to the Wieliczka Salt Mine and did the 2.5 hour tour through there where we went through 3 levels of the mine with a guide and learned about the history, etc.

The rest of the day was spent touring historic Krakow.  We went to several of the churches and cathedrals, and we were on our own for lunch, so I went with several of my new friends to a cafe where we ate outside in the wonderful weather and enjoyed all of the life taking place in the Krakow square while eating pierogies- a traditional Polish dumpling usually filled with potatoes, cheese, meat or spinach (Corey, are you jealous?!) and getting acquainted with one another.  There was SO much to see in the square and on the tour.  We learned a lot about the history of Poland and Krakow, and saw many beautiful things, the most beautiful being the altar in the Church of Mary (unfortunately we could not take pictures inside).

We ended the day with a nice dinner on the square in town, and even some piano singing at the end of it!  I spent dinner talking with my new friend, Dina, and Patrick (who is a news anchor in Terre Haute), who shared stories about the news world, as well as what his plans are for this trip.  It was fascinating to hear about his trip with Eva to Israel where she was going to speak with other Mengele twins, who at first, refused to talk with her.  I will be interested to see what the news crew will do with this trip.

Tomorrow we will journey to Birkenau/Auschwitz II.  A lot of us are anxious about what we will feel and experience there.  I will be sure to take plenty of notes and share with you what we are experiencing.  Until then, thanks for reading, and good night!

Here are some pics from the day:

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Church of Mary, Krakow

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What would Krakow be without the grim reaper outside of the church? ;)

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4 Responses to Salt Mines and Krakow

  1. Dan says:

    As a veteran of the 2012 trip, I look forward to hearing your comments.

  2. I think “theology” is the proper term even if she is not religious in the traditional sense. Theology is one’s understanding of that which is ultimate, even if one does not ascribe ultimate meaning to a particular religious tradition or even believe in a conscious, personal deity.

  3. Whitney Rice says:

    Hi, Jill! Thank you so much for taking the time to share these theological reflections with us as you are in the midst of this intense experience. I have often wrestled with ideas of forgiveness, and I think the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation is helpful. I heard Rob Voyle at our most recent clergy conference, and he had a similar theme–forgiveness is internal and can happen regardless of whether the other party repents. But reconciliation does require some acknowledgement of what happened by the person who perpetrated the wrong, and that is not an easy step. It was helpful for me to realize that working toward forgiveness is a spiritual necessity, but there is no sin in abandoning the pursuit of reconciliation if the other person is unwilling or unable to admit that he/she did wrong.

    Can’t wait to hear more from you! I wonder how this experience will impact your preaching and teaching going forward.

  4. Dan says:

    Since touring Auschwitz last year with Eva and having read several books over the winter, the one book that particularly stands out in my mind it “Night” by Elie Wiesel. He came away with quite a different perspective. I found his book and thoughts very refreshing, however most who consider themselves to be religious most likely will not agree.

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