(7:45 am) A feeling of relief came over me when my plane touched down in Krakow, but I also wanted to steel myself for the upcoming experiences at Auschwitz. This trip is a working trip; an exchange, I thought to myself, but in reality, it’s also a solemn pilgrimage to hallowed ground. I had heard from time to time from people who’ve visited Auschwitz how terrible it is was; how uncomfortable they were after being there for a few hours. I’ll be living there, reporting for work every day in the collections offices in Block 25. Though I welcome the watershed of beautiful emotions that make us human, I needed to be prepared to master myself; to not drown in a sea of my own sadness and fears, but instead to gather my strength to make a difference. Making a real contribution to this institution through my presence here is my top priority. Remember how I said I work at The Polish Mission with gusto? I’m ready to do the same now.
Not a moment to lose! I’m typing this while on the road in southern Poland–Art Curator Agnieszka Sieradzka and I are tttravelling on this bbbbbumpy road to meet someone who claims they have an original rare item from the former Auschwiz camp. The staff here at the museum investigates cases like this a few times each year, when people would like to offer supposed original items to the museum. Agnieszka and I are going to get a close look at the item, and then it’ll be time to hit the books. If the item proves to be authentic, it’ll be quite the find–it would be one of only two known originals of its kind in existence. That’s all for now–I hope it’s real, and I hope we will acquire it!
…annnnd success! We just got back on the road after a pleasant visit to a city not far from Oswiecim, to an upper-story flat, where our meeting was held. After some pleasant negotiation over a cup of Turkish coffee, next to a warm wood-burning stove, the item was brought to the kitchen table, and Agnieszka presented the official paperwork for the individual to sign. It was plain to see that the original owner was happy that the item would likely have a new home alongside the treasury of artifacts in the collection. The next step in the process is for the museum to evaluate the item. I was able to snap a few photos of the item’s original location in a small attic, which the museum will keep on file as documentation. Now we’re off to the next stop!
After visiting another donor, we’re back on the road to Oswiecim. The item we viewed this time was artwork. Agnieszka will take the framed artwork back to her lab for careful examination of the rerverse side of the drawing, which has writing in German, according to the owner. The artist had apparently been a prisoner of an unknown concentration camp, and hopefully, the backside of the drawing will reveal if he was in fact at Auschwitz.
How amazing to be a part of all this.