Czesław picks us up for our round trip to Oleśnica (Oels), Grabowno Wielkie (Groß-Graben) and Twardogóra (Festenberg). A stroll leads us to the Piast castle in Oleśnica. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 13th century whereas the main parts where built in the late 16 th century in Renaissance stile.
A remarkable new memorial commemorates the victims of the plane crash on April 10, 2010 near Smolensk. The President of Poland Lech Kaczyński, his wife, 18 members of the Polish parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy, and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre were killed. They were on their way to ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre.
Oleśnica – The Katyn Memorial
The memorial commemorates the victims of the Katyn massacre as well as the victims of other massacres in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. And it relates the story of thousands of Poles, deported and killed by the Soviet Union in the Stalin era – highly controversial issues up until today and untold stories in communist Poland.
As we knew through prior research conducted by Tomek the Protestant rectory of Groß Graben was demolished in 1945. The former Protestant and now Catholic church of Groß Graben would be the closest we could come to the history of Louis Laqueur, who spent the years 1850 to 1852 at the rectory preparing for his entrance examination for the gymnasium. As he relates in “Aus meinem Leben” the Protestant church was built in 1851 and solemnly inaugurated in 1852. We were told that the priest had an appointment with his bishop but the chairwoman of the parish council Ms. Maria Konarzewska would show us the church.
Maria Konarzewska and I with the key to the church of Grabowno Wielkie
She came and brought the original wrought iron key from 1851 and invited us to unlock the entrance door ourselves. The church with its painted decorations was restored recently. Therefore it can be safely assumed that the inside looks pretty much the same as Louis Laqueur had seen it some 164 years previously. We spent quite some time exploring the church and (unsuccessfully) endeavoring to climb the inside of the spire.
Grabowno Wielkie – church inside
“And before you leave come to my place” Ms. Konarzewska said. “We have prepared a little something for you.” Her place turned out to be a former restaurant still in use a venue for weddings or other celebrations. And the “little something” turned out to be fully-fledged three course dinner with a soup, main course and desert. Ms. Konarzewska, her daughter and her granddaughter served a delicious meal. Along the way she told us that one of her daughters is married in Germany and that she was a delegation member visiting Argentina recently. However her statement that Argentina’s hospitality was the world’s best could not remain undisputed in view of the (completely unexpected) hospitality we were enjoying that very instant.
Czesław, our bus driver, Maria Konarzewska, Tomek and Katherine
Locating the Jewish cemetery of Festenberg (if it still exists) remains a future task. The address mentioned on a website led us to a (most obviously) Catholic cemetery where we did not even try to locate graves of any of our ancestors. And the exploration of a place outside of Festenberg led Ann, Tomek and me to a thicket in a small wood with lots of nettles, some garbage and a few fragments possibly of headstones but with no legible insriptions.
Back at the hotel we had to say good-bye to Tomek, who had done a wonderful job to prepare the past days. The cordial outreach and the official receptions were clearly his doing and made the days in Namysłow unforgettable.
Later that evening a very happy Asher returns from his second visit to Parkstr. 18. Accompanied by Tomek he met the current resident of the house and was even invited in to have a look at.