Hello from Europe

Hello from Europe
Posted on 02/27/2023

Dear LS Students, Families, and Staff,

I hope you are are enjoying your February break and finding a way to stay warm if you are home.

I have the good fortune of traveling with 15 LS students plus the LS Group Leader and chaperone Tim Nikula and David Hosford on a European Tour focusing on WWII/Cold War themes this break. So far we’ve passed through Berlin, Dresden and Prague. We are now in an area south of Krakow.   The others are exploring the salt mines that a 100 meters deep below ground while I sit above ground to write you. 

Previous LS WWII/Cold War Tours occurred in 2015 and 2017. Ones scheduled for 2020 and 2022 were both canceled due to COVID.  It is almost seven years since our last visit.  Everything, of course, is more modern.  It is also a bit emptier than expected this time.

We arrived in Krakow yesterday on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was immediately clear from our local contacts how much was done to support Ukrainian refugees who came rushing over the border.  And how impactful it has been on every aspect of their lives. This has been true of every city we’ve been on this tour but not as much as it has been here. Ukrainian can be heard spoken everywhere we visit. What began as a temporary situation has evolved into an elongated state of pervasive uncertainty.  There is an increasing wariness of it being perpetuated indefinitely. 

Everyone we have met in Krakow has commented on President Biden’s visit to Warsaw yesterday.  The smiles on their faces indicate his choice to come was well received.  The timing was entirely coincidental to our arrival to Poland but I suppose we have benefited vicariously with some extra good feeling directed our way. 

We started this morning at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  The visitation of any concentration camp bears gravity upon one’s soul and spirit, especially this one.  The incredible magnitude of it all is beyond comprehension.   Yet it really did happen.  We returned immediately after to Krakow to spend time in a local academic high school, a juxtaposition of inclusion and warmth. And now the students are experiencing the historic salt mines.  We’ve been zigzagging across a multitude of contexts and centuries of history as well as experiencing and observing some history in the making. 

I am reminded how experiencing other cultures necessarily helps one to expand one's perspective to include that of others.  The world knows that Ukraine was previously a part of Russia’s domain.  Everyone in Poland knows that Ukraine was once a part of Poland before it was a part of Russia.  Then there are those who were previously part of Ukraine but displaced due to the diaspora of the holocaust.  We have and are now witnessing another diaspora.