Discover Jewish Warsaw

One of the areas we were dealing with under the "Faces of Diversity" project was Warsaw's Jewish past. Through the "Warsaw, Varshe" exhibition and its accompanying events (March-June 2014), we wanted to shed more light on the city's past inhabitants who had not only significantly influenced Warsaw's development and shape, but whose presence had also left a permanent mark on the culture and the sound of the language. The exhibition offered the possibility to "experience the capital city", by having a look at its iconic places such as the Ziemiańska café or the Association of Jewish Journalists and Writers, which used to be located at 13 Tłomackie Street. The exhibition presented the pre-war look of Nalewki, Muranów, the Jewish Praga district and the Vistula River bank – a swimming place for the Jewish citizens of the city and a trade route for merchants. 

The exhibition became a pretext for us to get out of the Museum and follow up on its themes in the urban space. We organised a number of walks and location-based games where we had a closer look at the most important places connected with the Jewish minority, that is Nalewki and Muranów, the vicinity of the Grzybowski Square and Praga, but we also managed to discuss famous Jewish women, Doctor Ludwik Zamenhof and the language he created – Esperanto. Besides, the language was an important theme of the exhibition. One part of the exhibition was dedicated to Yiddish influences, or words derived from the Yiddish language which have become a permanent element of the Polish language and are used until this day. We have followed up on this theme by organising a range of workshops on the "Jewish languages": Yiddish, Hebrew, and Esperanto that was created by the Jewish doctor. During lectures, we also referred to the languages spoken on the streets of old Warsaw.

In the proposed activities, we wanted to bring back the former image of the capital city, but also to look at it from the contemporary perspective – both from the perspective of activists operating for the benefit of the Jewish community or Jewish heritage and from the perspective of artists and curators who – while referring to artistic projects – commented upon the way of functioning of Jewish history in Polish collective memory.

We tried to present the multitude of perspectives and also link the past to contemporary imaginations and interpretations. The activities that we offered to our audience included collage-making workshops headlined "Warsaw that is no more". Together with artist Julia Mirny, we created postcards of old Warsaw that was brought back and restored in our memory:

During our stop motion workshops, we brought back the illustrations of the past life in the capital and we filled them with our personal stories. As a result, we created three films which were a commentary on our memory and the intertwining of collective and private histories.

See the stop motion animation entitled "Jewish Warsaw in Family Stories":