Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hungary to Poland trip Part I -- a Jewish cemetery uncovered....

Revealed on the road side. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I'm beginning to post material from my recent road trip to Hungary and Poland; it was somehow difficult to get things online when traveling....

My itinerary took me from Budapest to Sanok and other towns in the far southeast corner of Poland, and then to Krakow. Most of the route through Hungary is four-lane motorway, but from Miskolc north to the border with Slovakia it's still a two-lane highway.

The first time I recall driving this way was in 1992, when I was researching my book "Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today." One of the chapters of that book is a long essay, "Wine Merchants and Wonder Rabbis" about the links that connected northern Hungary and southern Poland -- wine going north, Hassidism going south.

At that time, the only person I encountered who remembered the existence of the Jewish cemetery of Méra, a village in northern Hungary in the road to the Slovak border, was a malodorous old drunk, who got in the car and guided me there. I found the broken frame of a gate and a few eroded tombstones imbedded in a thick wall of brush just off the side of the main road.

The last time I had driven that way, a few years ago, I hadn't been able even to make out where the cemetery was, it was so overgrown. There seemed to be nothing.  I feared it was totally lost -- and with it,  the memory of the Jews who had lived there.

So this time, I was quite surprised to find that the cemetery had been cleared of brush, bushes, under- and overgrowth, with the stones fully exposed. In fact, I was astonished! Even the grass/weeds had been freshly cut! (I'm not sure, though, who has carried out the work or when it was done.)

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

What was revealed, however, was the story of death and vandalism as well as remembered life... some of the stones had been broken or smashed...., but the fragments had been gathered and stood together.

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

But...regardless -- there they were! Clean, cleared, exposed, not submerged any more out of sight out of mind;  revealed for all to see!

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