Friday, April 10, 2015

Restored pharmacy was a witness to a tragic period

After leaving Schindler's factory we had a cold walk to Bohrerow Square, which has quite a turbulent history. During the time of the ghetto it was a place for people to socialize and escape the crowding of the tenements. Ultimately, it was the scene of mass deportations, beatings and executions. Following the final liquidation it was strewn with furniture and luggage. During the communist era it was used as a public toilet and a parking lot. In 2005 it was laid out with seventy very large metal chairs to symbolize departure and absence, a memorial to the victims of the Krakow ghetto.

We had come to the square looking for the Tadeuz Pankiewicz's Pharmacy known as the Pharmacy Under the Eagle. It was lovely to see the old fashioned pharmacy with its displays of herbs and medicines recreated to look as it did in former times.

When the Nazis created the Jewish ghetto in Podg├│rze, this pharmacy was at the very heart of it. Deciding to stay, Pankiewicz and his staff were the only Poles allowed to live and work in the ghetto and over the two years of the ghetto's existence it became an important centre of social life as well as aid in acquiring food and medicine, falsified documents and avoiding deportations. Pankiewicz and his staff risked their lives in many clandestine operations while bearing witness to tragedy through the windows of the pharmacy as the ghetto and its 15,000 inhabitants were ultimately 'liquidated.'

I liked opening the chests and cupboards of the pharmacy to see old photos and artefacts.  Though comprising only five small rooms, it was well worth the visit.

Back in the cold once again with glimmers of snow, we started walking back to town with a brief stop for lunch in a little local restaurant. For the equivalent of $7 CAD we had a bowl of minestrone filled with vegetables. Our next dish wasn't quite how we expected it but it was fine with a side of cooked cold red cabbage like coleslaw accompanied by macaroni with mushrooms and a mild mushroom sauce. There was a cherry drink and a crepe filled with jam for dessert. I couldn't eat it all. Generally, we have found food very inexpensive even in better restaurants. Outside once more it was too cold to walk and we took a tram back close to the Main Square for less than $1.

Once again we went to an art house movie in the evening. This time in a 16th century building located on the Main Square. I suspect the building was probably flats at one time. We walked up the four flights of stairs that were worn with use over the years. This time the movie was in a large room with about sixteen rows but it just looked like a movie theatre not a drawing room.

At our evening meal we noticed a group of business people at the next table. The boss handed out  pieces of egg to the guests, which they ate before even seeing the menus. The eggs were accompanied by a speech. This is part of an Easter ceremony that usually happens on Easter morning when the egg is blessed at church. It is the symbol of life and eating it is believed to guarantee good health. Everyone exchanged wishes and they ate a big meal. Twice we sat beside fairly large groups in restaurants and hardly knew they were there as they ate and spoke so quietly, very different from Spain.

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