My family’s history living in Poland

Last updated: Mar 5th, 2024

Natalia Krzeslowska

Educational School Trips Organiser, Rayburn Tours

I feel both emotional and proud re-telling the stories of my families past. Growing up in Central Poland in a small industrial town, just a 1 hour drive from Lodz, there was a large Jewish population and so of course due to this, a ghetto was created. This was the second-largest ghetto in all of German-occupied Europe after Warsaw, but it received very little exposure in the wider world.

My grandma lived through these challenging times and spent her later years re-telling the tales of her past.

Living with her family in a tenement house in Lodz, they forged close friendships with their neighbours who were of both of German and Jewish origins. These friendships became more challenging and trickier to maintain at the onset of the war.

It was always harrowing to hear how she witnessed her family friends being dragged out of their homes and how she lived in constant fear that my great grandad would be taken away, due to him being well known as a high-ranking firefighter.

Then came the moment when the depth of their neighbourly friendship would be tested.

Through the act of attending secret meetings as part of his role in the resistance movement he was subsequently arrested and taken to camp. In those harrowing scenes it was the German family who lived next door that came to his rescue, but this was at the cost of all the money, gold and valuables they had.

Family members who were part of the intelligence living in America, forced to flee out of fear of being killed by the Germans, stepped in to help cushion their financial burden.

The images in my grandma’s head of a bombed and destroyed Lodz and Warsaw, Jewish ghettos created on her once joyful and pretty route to school and the suffering of her own family never faded. The stories she passed on to me, continue to move me to this day too. She was our last living family member, who witnessed the atrocities caused by both Germans and Russians.

In all honesty, working as I do today, creating in depth learning experiences for schools visiting Poland and Krakow as part of a school history trip, I guess there is a big part of me feeling responsible for making sure this part of history is never forgotten or repeated. I feel that by personally playing a part in sending young people to Poland every year, I’m contributing to passing on that ugly part of history to our younger generations so it can be prevented from ever happening again.

These stories need re-telling and sharing with young people – it opens eyes and widens young minds… Step inside and discover our History Trips to Krakow 

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