My Visit To
|October 6, 1999: Bialystok to Suwalki
George has never been to Trzcianne, which is unusual. (An experienced guide with Our Roots, George seems to have been pretty much everywhere in this part of Poland.) Getting here isn't easy, even with a detailed road map George is suspicious about the quality of some of the roads, and he decides to take the long way around.
I've read that a Jewish cemetery still exists in Trzcianne, but when we pull into the small town, we have no idea where to begin looking for it. We spot an elderly woman walking down the main street; George gets out of the car and engages her in conversation. After a few minutes, George climbs back into the car, and the woman joins us. George tells me that the woman is familiar with the location of the Jewish Cemetery, but she says that we'll never be able to find it by ourselves so she has generously offered to come along and show us the way.
The woman tells us to pull over when we're driving through a wooded area perhaps half a mile out of town (to the north, I think). She points off into the woods on the left side of the road; George and I head in that direction. In less than a minute, we're walking through a clearing with large rocks scattered all around. Much to my surprise, George tells me that we've found the cemetery. If I had been here on my own, I probably would have strolled through the jumble of rocks without a second thought. (Of course, if I had been here on my own, I never would have found the cemetery in the first place.)
George tells me that it was a Jewish custom to use "natural" (rather than carved) rocks as headstones, a practice with which I was not familiar. Now that the rocks are no longer standing in position (having been dislodged by time and nature or by human hands, it's hard to tell), it requires close inspection to see that they actually once served as headstones. And although the cemetery appears to be a shambles, George tells me that it's actually in better condition than other Jewish cemeteries in Poland, many of which were completely obliterated by the Nazis.
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