For the ORT students on the five-day tour of Jewish sites in Poland it was more than a journey into a lost world, it was a voyage of self-discovery.
Visiting Warsaw, Krakow, Radom and Kielce brought to life what the students from across the Former Soviet Union and Baltic States had been learning about in previous months – the beauty and vibrancy of the culture and traditions of their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations.
But it was the last day, the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which made the biggest impression.
I’d heard a lot about this place; I’d read about it, watched movies about it, but all this was not enough. My hair stood on end when we arrived. I still can’t get over it; sometimes I wake up with those scary images in my mind. But I’m still glad I was there because it’s made me think in a different way; I see the world differently now.
10th grade student at the Kiev ORT Educational Complex
Masa Shorashim is an annual trip for schoolchildren supported by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Ministry of Education. This year, nearly 400 students from 34 schools took part, including ORT students from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Moldova.
It turned out to be much more than an educational trip. It was a project to bind people together. During the trip we were a big family; we made friends with one another thanks to this experience.
ORT Moscow Technology School student
ORT Odessa student Dmitry Sobol agreed: “We met great ORT guys from Chernivtsi, St Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan… We became very good friends during the trip and were very sorry to leave when it ended. We hope to meet again.”
And the melancholy of the Auschwitz visit did not overwhelm the students.
“There were lots of joyful moments, such as Shabbat and our walk in Krakow,” said Iana Gainetdinova, a student at the ORT Gesher school in Samara. “There were lots of fascinating excursion. I learned a lot. It was a lot of fun.”
Students came out of the trip more mature, less naïve and with a resolve to build a better future.
“We will never forget this trip; these places, these stories and these people remain with us,” said Dmitry from Odessa. “We will remember and we will be united. Such a catastrophe must never happen again – to anyone.”