Preliminary Trip Report from PJCRP Visit in Wysokie Mazowieckie
By Andrzej Omasta
Poland November 7th, 2003
Two working days in Wysokie Mazowieckie made it possible to have long and fruitful talks with key pepole of this town, especially the priest, Edward Zembrzycki, and the Mayor, Jaroslaw Siekierko, and visit the cemetery and go through local archives.
Meeting with the Priest
Meeting with the priest was organized as the first at his suggestion. It made it possible to get confirmation that the area is really difficult mainly because of "ghosts from the past" as well as some frictions taking place from time to time in connection with visits of Wysokie Mazowieckie descendants or other groups.
The priest appears interested in smoothening these problems, especially as the Jewish and Catholic cemeteries are situated next to one another, separated only by a draining trench. It should be emphasized that, as shown by the priest when he toured me around the town, the Jewish cemetery is presently located practically in the town and surrounded by residential area. Therefore, after proper restoration it may become one of most important places in the town and will be no longer abused as a meeting place of drunkards.
In opinion of the priest there are serious chances for getting support of people living in this part of the town for the idea of restoration as this may solve their problems with drunkards and similar types.
As stated above, it is situated in part of town which becomes a residential area.
The area: 1.5866 hectares.
According to The Land and Mortgage Register (copy available), it comprises the area of plots no. 832 and 833, shown as owned by the State Treasury and under jurisdiction of the Wysokie Mazowieckie town (by verdict of District Court from March 5, 1964, copy available).
From the north and east it is bounded by streets (Kardynała Wyszynskiego and Zwirki and Wigury streets), from the south - by residential area, and from the west - by eastern boundary of Catholic cemetery and cultivated agricultural land.
The available geodetic surveys show that there should not be any major problem with reconstruction of boundaries of the cemetery.
Site inspection made it possible to state that the cemetery is becoming overgrown with young bushes which indicates that this area was fairly well maintained in not distant past. There are some places littered with garbage but on rather small scale (which is well documented on photos).
There are still 70 to 80 matzevot in original position but some more may be hidden in the bushes. There are mainly matzevot made of erratic (glacial drift) boulders (mainly granites) and usually small in size, 30 to 40 cm high. A few granite matzevot about 1 m high are also present.
General conditions appear much better than expected and what we found in Ozarow or Strzegowo.
The talks were promising and contact cultivated. Talks with the Mayor may be best treated as a follow-up of my earlier meeting with the priest so I may state that the talks turned to be some kind of continuation (contact between the priest and the Mayor seem more than good).
Therefore, the Mayor concentrated on possibilities to solve the problems with the cemetery as smoothly and efficiently as possible. He expects from PJCRP to propose solutions already checked positively in other towns. It should be emphasized that he was already fairly familiar with PJCRP is performing in this region, especially Losice and Strzegowo.
The Mayor informed me about earlier contacts with the descendants, especially that with Michael Traison from the year 2000 with reference to the cemetery. According to the Mayor, Michael Traison asked the town hall to clear the area and remove bushes and garbage and passed 5,000 zloty as donation for the town. This task was accomplished and the Mayor showed me invoices 17,100 zloty for this operation, that is over three times more than the original donation. I learned that the Mayor was quite strongly attacked for some time by some members of the town council for spending town money for maintenance of the Jewish cemetery.
Despite of such experience, the Mayor is declaring willingness to support eventual restoration project and cooperate in restoration works. In his opinion (which I share) it would be possible to discuss scale of participation of the town when the Jewish side presents a definite project.
NOTE: In concluding our talks the Mayor promised to give first signals of good will to the descendants and send town services to clean up the cemetery and that the cemetery will be shown in official town maps.
The Restoration Project
On the basis of information provided by the town hall people, I contacted Mr. Przemyslaw Watroba, historian of art, who agreed to do such project for the descendants. However, as informed by Mr. Watroba, such design was never made as price negotiations were aborted at some point.
It should be emphasized here that such design is really needed to (1) show the local population what descendants are planning and (2) help in further talks with the town authorities on their support and scale of involvement.
In opinion of the Mayor and the priest, it may be a simple preliminary design clearly showing that the project will include raising nice modest wall with gate and relevant plaque and that the area will be carefully cleared.
History of Jewish community of the Wysokie Mazowieckie:
The visit made it possible to find a local historian, Mr. Jan Krynski. He is a former director of local High School and teacher of history. His archives are really impressive so we will need some additional time to write this chapter.
The Matzeva of Simcha Kotinke in Wysokie Mazowiecki
Last updated November 14th, 2003