The house on Rolna

Back in Los Angeles in the wake of my return from Poland, I discover a strategy for jetlag. Late at night, sleep elusive, I fly to Radomsko via Google Earth, sipping tea as the glowing globe rotates on its axis and the image on my screen zooms in on the little town between Czestochowa and Lodz.

With a click of the mouse I am standing in front of the abandoned Thonet-Mundus factory, the forlorn train station, the Zamaszek Hotel where I listened to a rescuer tell me his story. Another click and I am standing in front of the house on Rolna Street, the last known address in the Radomsko ghetto for my great-aunt, Fayga Konarska Wilhelm, and her husband.

It took several visits to Radomsko over the years until I finally found someone—an old woman– at home on Rolna Street. It was in the spring of 2008. She was weeding in her garden behind the house. There was a dilapidated greenhouse and an old appletree in her yard. When my friends gently questioned her in Polish, she gestured with her weeding claw, like a bewildered bird. Her grandfather built the house, during the war it was requisitioned by the Germans, her family forced to move. Several Jewish families were billeted here. She didn’t know their names.

I glanced inside an open side door to the house. Slanted light struck the small kitchen table covered with a plastic plaid tablecloth and mottled the bare wood floor. A sink stacked with dishes was in shadow.

Rain falling in Los Angeles,  soaking our garden, the apple and orange trees behind our house in Silver Lake.  I fall asleep in the winter dark afternoon, dreaming of Poland.

The house on Rolna Street

5 Responses to “The house on Rolna”

  1. anne kalik Says:

    home again…wondrous!!!

    love from the big snows,
    a

  2. Richard Katkov Says:

    I lead a busy, Los Angeles-centric life bearing a hard elliptical shell. It is hard to break out of or into.

    Louise’s blog about her trip transported me to the real Poland and to the Poland of her dreams; and to the restaurants and exhibits and plays… and the coat!

    Thank you.

  3. my dear Louise,

    searching on internet pictures of Radomsko, i ve found your blog by chance. how moving to see pictures of Nathan Spiegel (2 paintings were my grandmother’s in Radomsko !).

    my father, Heniek Kesselman z”l survived for 28 months underground in the Radomsko’s forest. he saved 6 members of his family.
    unfortunately, 7 months after the end of the war, 2 poles assassinated my father’s mother and his little sister Dvorele in their own house.
    so, they ran away thru germany and arrived in France and in Argentina.
    you can see a part of the story on my website http://www.yiddele-memory.org

    i created a new associatio one year ago.
    i try to gather young children of holocaust survivors in order to give our vision of the world as antisemitism is growing again in the world (like in 1938 in germany).
    i think that we are in a great danger (jews and israel) and we have the duty to DO something.

    my members of honor are Martin Gray, Pr. Beno Gross, Avi Pazner (ex-ambassador of Israel, porte-parole of Israel).
    i met Elie Wiesel, Pere Desbois, Claude Lanzmann, Marek Halter…

    i would love to know you.
    i live in France. i m 36. my father was born in Radomsko in 1921. he had me when he was 54, from a second wedding.
    it was a great luck to have a Dad like him. he unfortunately passed away 10 years ago on Pessah night.

    i envy you you went to Radomsko. i still didn t have the moral strenght to go.
    would you like to share your feelings about this town with me ? is there any jewish life there ?

    waiting for your answer,
    cordially yours, shalom,

    Ruhele lili Kesselman.

  4. I am now in Radomsko. After a bit of research, I think I have defined the boundary of the ghetto and today I will walk around it and film it. Very few houses were left standing after the deportation of 12 October 1942 although the Nazis reopened the ghetto in Novermber 1942 which was repopulated from people taken from other settlements as well as those who had fled to the countryside yet realised that they would not survive the winter.

    I will post the video here :

    http://www.youtube.com/alanheath

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