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My Experience in Poland

By: Camey VanSant

By Maya

In April, I had the opportunity to go to Poland with the rest of my gap year program. The purpose of the trip was to get a closer look at the intolerance and horror that took place during the Holocaust and appreciate the life that was able to persevere. We visited so many concentration camps, graveyards, and memorials, that by the end, everyone felt numb. Words cannot begin to grasp the overwhelming emotions that grew in my stomach when I saw the book that held the names of four million Jews who were murdered, or the gut-wrenching feeling of walking into a gas chamber. During this week, my brain stopped processing. Nothing made sense. How could it be possible that thousands of people were murdered in the camps every day, or that two in three Jews in Europe had been wiped out by the end of 1945? However, while it was all very emotional to hear about, it was also very hard to connect. It was impossible not to get lost in the numbers, not to feel surrounded by the endless death, so horrible that it felt like fiction. I struggled to internalize everything I heard and saw and to even begin imagining it happening to me. Luckily, going with a group of 200 other teens meant that I was surrounded by a community that felt the same. Every night, kids would get together to discuss and process what they had undergone that day. Having the support of everyone around me and being able to hear their thoughts and share my own helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. Although it was incredibly emotionally taxing, I was so grateful for the chance to go. It helped me better understand my history and reminded me of the importance of remembering and honoring survivors. It reminded me to never be indifferent toward injustice and to make an active stand against it.

Categories: Maya