From: Aragorn
To: czestochowajews-yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 8:21 AM
Subject: [czestochowajews] Cemetery Update

Hi again people ....

I thought that after the Mizgalski wedding on Saturday, I would have time to relax a little, spend some time with my friends in Czestochowa and regather my strength before I move on to Lodz tomorrow. Unfortunately, because of Sunday's sad events, it's now after 11pm on Tuesday night, I've just got back to my hotel and, after having a shower to revive my flagging energies, I now write a further update to let you all know the latest while it's fresh in my mind (so much has happened today) - then I can collapse and go to sleep.

This morning,  Halina Wasilewicz (Chair of the Czewa TSKZ) and Prof Jerzy Mizgalski  and I (on behalf of our World Society) composed a letter to the City President of Czestochowa, Dr Tadeusz Wrona, expressing our shock at the desecration of graves in our cemetery and the fear that one act of stupidity and vandalism such as this, could undo all the efforts of not only Sigmund Rolat and our World Society, but also that of Dr Wrona and the City of Czestochowa over the last decade - efforts, not only to protect the Jewish heritage of this city, but also the promotion of dialogue and understanding that has been built up over that decade between Jews and Catholics in this city.

We concluded the letter with a request that the City President assist us in formulating a concrete plan to safeguard and conserve the Jewish Cemetery of Czestochowa.

Halina Wasilewicz and I personally delivered the letter to Dr Wrona, who interrupted a meeting to receive us in a private room and discuss the situation with us. He is genuinely horrified at what has happened and has committed the city to assisting us.

Following that meeting, we were advised that Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, was travelling to Czestochowa and, together with the City President, would be at the cemetery at 3pm this afternoon. We were also told that some local high students had already gone there and had begun to remove some of the graffiti.

At the appointed hour, not only were the students there cleaning up, along with the City President and Chief Rabbi, many city officials plus a huge press presence had also turned up. I would not be surprised if many of you have not already seen the footage from this afternoon on your local news services.

The City President, City Officials and even the Chief Rabbi then, literally, rolled up their sleeves and for about an hour began cleaning off some more of the graffiti.

During discussions at the cemetery that followed, Dr Wrona committed to the Chief Rabbi that the City would clean off all the graffiti on ALL the graves, not just those on the central area memorials - in fact, the city had already begun clearing a large area of the cemetery which had again been overgrown with weeds. (I began complaining when I saw those regrown weeds last Sunday, but very quickly realised that those overgrown weeds had in fact hidden many graves and had actually protected them from the vandalism because they could not be easily got at.)

The City President also said that funds and other resources could be made available from the council and also NGO's to help do something positive with the cemetery so long as there was an organisation which was prepared to take responsibility for the cemetery itself.

I then had a meeting with the local Jewish community at the TSKZ. In Sigmund's absence (by this time he had returned to NYC), I represented the World Society being a member of the Executive. Members of the local Jewish community have now signed a petition asking our World Society to:

(1) clarify the situation over the ownership of the cemetery
(2) take over patronage and possibly trusteeship of the cemetery
(3) establish a plan to safeguard and preserve the cemetery through:
        (a) coming to a concrete arrangement with the City Council
        (b) establishing, with the city, a plan to preserve the pathways and the graves
        (c) establishing a full inventory of all graves in the cemetery
        (d) costing and scheduling works to protect and preserve the cemetery
        (e) providing personnel who will both guard and maintain the cemetery grounds
(4) assist in providing resources that will enable the cemetery to be protected and preserved.

This petition, which is still being signed, will be presented to our President, Sigmund Rolat, who is now aware of its existence.

In a discussion with Sigmund by telephone to NYC this evening, I understand that this petition will be favourably received. However, there will be a few legalities that need to be worked through first. These include registering our World Society in Poland so that we will have legal standing within this country, negotiating with the Katowice Gmina who have nominal ownership of the cemetery but who seem unable to do anything positive with it, negotiating with the City Council so that a public/private partnership can be worked out and also the establishment of a Foundation to which we hope that many of our landsleit around the world will contribute to assist in making all this happen.

That's it for today folks ... it's now after midnight .... I'm exhausted. I have another meeting with Council tomorrow at 10:00am before I leave for Lodz. It may be that I may have to return here again before I leave Poland on 27th August - but let's cross that bridge when we come to it. Until tomorrow... good night folks!!


Andrew (Aragorn)

Andrew Rajcher  (Axiom Compusat Services)
Melbourne, Australia