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April 25 - 26

Old Western Gate of the City of Sieldce (photo: Gancwol)

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PAULINA's journey 
April 25- May 25, 2019

PAULINA” is a research and performance project confronting challenges of translation, memory, and identity.  It is centered on the discovery of a text: the Holocaust testimony of a woman named Paulina Hirsch, and on a growing exchange between Michelle Levy (New York) and Patrycja Dołowy (Warsaw).

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Michelle is a granddaughter of Polish Jewish immigrants to New York. She was searching for records on her great-grandmother in Poland when she found her relative Paulina's testimony and met Patrycja. Patrycja is a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors in Warsaw. She draws out marginalized stories – often of women – connected with Jewish memory in Poland. She helped Michelle decode Paulina's testimony, becoming an integral part of this story. 


Paulina was a wife and mother who lost her family and had to fend for herself in occupied Poland. Her testimony is an impersonal, official document that is both specific and vague. As much as we try to know her, the heroine remains absent from her story. What we do know are the details of where she went. Guided by happenstance and the continual reminder that things are not always what they seem, we are taking a journey together to see what we may discover by revisiting Paulina's story in the places where it happened.

PAULINA'S ROUTE (1939-45 & 2019):

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When the war broke out, Paulina was in Siedlce, a small city 100 km east of Warsaw. There is no explanation for why she was there. We believe she and her family may have been on vacation nearby and went to Siedlce to take the train home to Kraków.

"After the bombing, thousands began to leave the city. They went without knowing where or to whom. With young children in their hands and bundles on their backs, all set off" Herzl Kavve.

Staryi Chortoryisk(Czartorysk)+ Włodawa

April 27- 28

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Paulina traveled by foot, in the direction of the Bug River, to Czartorysk (now in Ukraine). 

On the way to Czartorysk* we will spend the night in Włodawa at the border to Ukraine, where it is likely that Paulina received assistance, with many others, in crossing the border to the Soviet side. 

*We will be driving, not walking.

  • Friday, April 26, 17:30  Join us at Włodawa's Great Synagogue for a reading-between-lines of Paulina's testimony, followed by a guided walk led by Marek Bem, Phd, local historian and ethnologist, concluding in the city park.

Lviv (Lwów)

April 28 - May 1


When the Soviets came, Paulina took the train from Czartorysk to Lwów. She lived in Lwów from October 1939 to February 1942. The city was under Soviet occupation until the Germans invaded in June 1941. She was rounded up during the first Nazi action but then was released because of her husband's employment. Beyond the details of the roundup, nothing is mentioned of their time in Lwów.

See: Lwów Yizkor Book for description events following Nazi occupation in the city

The Sobieski School, where roundups of Jews took place in the courtyard. The building still exists, and still functions as a school.

May 1

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Paulina would have passed through Ropczyce on the way to her next destination. Ropczyce is Michelle's great grandparents' home, where Paulina Hirsch's* father was born. 


We will stop in Ropcyzce and stay in the neighboring town, Sędzisów, where Michelle's grandmother went to school. Her grandmother's second-grade report card, which surfaced in 2016, is the catalyst for everything that has happened since. 


*There is more than one Paulina HIrsch.


May 2 - 3


Wieliczka, known for its salt mine, was a desirable destination for Jews during the first years of the occupation. Paulina got permission to move there with her husband. They experienced a moment of civility until the next revision took place. This is the last place Paulina saw her husband before he was arrested.


At the address where we believe the Hirsch's lived now stands a small post office. We plan to mail a letter from there... 

View looking out from where we believe the Hirsch's lived during their stay in Wieliczka

  • Thursday, May 2, 14:00, Wieliczka Public Library: a presentation and discussion, followed by a walk and exploration of key locations in the city. 

Kraków (Podgorze + Montelupich Prison)

May 4 - 7


Paulina's husband, Józef, was taken to Kraków's Montelupich Prison. She went to the Kraków Ghetto to try to save him. The Podgorze district, location of the ghetto, was her childhood home where her parents lived. When Józef could not be saved, a Jewish Gestapo officer helped Paulina and her daughter out of the ghetto before the next roundup.


Paulina's family home on Rękawka Street in Podgorze still exists. Montelupich Prison remains a functioning prison. 

From list of prisoners who received packages in Montelupich Prison, includes Jozef Hirsch. National Archives, Krakow

  • Sunday, May 5, 12:00, A walking meditation around Montelupich Prison, in remembrance to the prisoners of World War II.

  • Monday, May 6: Eagle Pharmacy, 18:00, A sharing and discussion of Paulina's story.

  • Tuesday, May 7 (private): A Visit Inside Montelupich Prison, and discussion of Paulina's testimony with inmates.


May 7 - May 11

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After attaining false papers, Paulina returned to Lviv to see if it was safe to relocate there. She found an apartment but when she went to register, the officer suspected her and called the Gestapo. She ran out and hid in a lamp store nearby. One of the shop employees helped her get to the train station. She headed to Warsaw.


Paulina was in such a rush to escape, she left her hat behind. We are going to try and find it.

Satellite view of Piekarska Street, where Paulina made a great escape.


May 12 - May 22

Closeup view of the garden of the house where Marek Przeworsky, shot by blackmailers, had been buried.

Kamienica Rakmana 1907, Al. Jerozolimski

Jerozolimskie 41 (now 47)

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Paulina's time in Warsaw is the most detailed part of her testimony. She found shelter and support in a variety of places, through friends and strangers. Key sites of interest are:

  • A house in Saska Kępa, where she was hosted by a woman saving Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. A Jewish man hiding in her host's basement was shot by blackmailers. Her host met a similar fate. The house still exists. Her host's name: Zofia Bandrowska-Hermanowa. Marek Przeworski was the man who was killed.

  • Jerozolimskie 41 where she lived in a boarding-house situation with several other Jewish families. Her hosts: the Kenareks.

  • The home of a professor/painter who hired her as a nanny and helped her to safety when things took a turn. His name reads as Kolonko, but is possibly Kokoszko. There was a professor/painter by this name living on Marszalkowska Street.

  • The "countryside" on the right bank: Wesoła near Rembertów,  where she relocated after the loss of her daughter. She was forced to work as a nurse at a German hospital in Rembertów at ul. Gierczkak 6. The building still exists.

  • Grochów, where Paulina stayed with an acquaintance and was hired as a supervisor of a German kitchen.

  • Legionowo, a suburb of Warsaw, where she went in order to try to cross the Wisła River and was stopped by the Germans.

Location of German hospital in Rembertów

  • Sunday, May 19.  We will "supervise" a dinner for all who can fit in Michelle's Grochów apartment. Please contact us for more information.

The Retreat and Return

May 22 - May 26

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When Paulina was stopped by Germans, they were impressed by her German skills and took her on as a translator and housekeeper for the army squadron. She retreated with them as the Soviets were advancing. They went from Henryków to Rosenberg (now Susz) to the Prussian border. There was a Soviet bombardment, a "hexenkessel" or "hell pocket" which we believe took place around Ebląg. The squadron was destroyed, but she survived, and eventually made her way back home to Kraków.


As Paulina was "escorted" by a squadron of men here, Patrycja's husband and two young sons will join us for this final leg.


On our return to Kraków, we pass through Łodz, where Paulina worked for the Central Jewish Historical Committee after the war was over. We arrive in Kraków on May 25th.

  • Saturday, May 25th, 8 pm. Concluding ceremony, Krakow

If you are in any of the above locations and would like to meet us or join in an activity, please contact us here.

Visit the PAULINA project page for more information, and for updates on finale presentations in Kraków and Warsaw in June and July. 


Follow Paulina's Journey on facebook and instagram:

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