It was an early start for 29 students and 3 members of staff - meeting on the school car park at 2:45am. The alarm blasted at 1:51am, a 9 minute snooze…I lay there thinking, “I’d rather go back to sleep than get up!” But on arrival to the car park, the atmosphere, although in the dead of night was buzzing with liveliness. The trip was really worth the early start! The students were all excited, passports were being collected and counted and students were getting comfortable on the coach, all getting ready for the journey down to Gatwick.
The flight was on time and smooth. All of us were excited to land in sunny Krakow.
We arrived at our hotel an hour after landing. It was beautiful. We waited for our keys sitting on a chaise, nibbling Polish fudge and sipping ice water. The hotel manager was lovely and so welcoming. We checked in to our rooms. They were light, airy, spacious, clean and comfortable. What more do you need when you are away? All of our party were spaced over two floors, with staff on each floor to supervise.
Our first adventure was Krakow Square which was beautiful and picturesque. Its medieval and grandiose nature shows how wealthy this area once was. Many students took a horse and carriage ride around the square, many explored the medieval cloth hall in the centre and others enjoyed the entertainment from the various street performers. After a talk about the history of the square from one of teachers, we returned to our hotel.
The next morning was another early start…breakfast at 6am ready for a 6:45am departure. Breakfast was delicious, scrambled eggs, sausages, cold meats, fresh fruit, yoghurts, smoothies, pastries, juices, salads and chocolate spreads. We were spoilt for choice. But despite the delicious breakfast, there was a sinking feeling in our tummies – today was the day we would spend at Auschwitz.
Our guide, Paulina was amazing. She breathed life in to the chilling barracks with anecdotes of both victims and survivors of this terrible place. No one can prepare you for what you see and feel there. Extreme sadness, unbelievable terror but still incredible heroism haunt the walls of the camp. Our group were stunned in to silence. Tears flowed as we all realised how incredibly fortunate we are to be born when we were. We all realised that the reason why we were here was to stop anything like this ever happening again.
The cold rain poured down on us at Auschwitz II. We were without umbrellas. No one even flinched. How could we? Standing on the platform where millions of unfortunate people got down from the cattle trains to be given their destiny of the gas chamber. How could anyone moan about a bit of rain. Seeing the barracks too hammered home the shocking conditions. Strict toilet rules, inhumane, disgusting conditions not fit for an animal- degrading. The whole place was designed to degrade, dehumanise and finally, in whichever way, bring death.
Silently, in shock, we travelled back to Krakow. To commemorate the memory of the Jews in Krakow, that night, we dined at a Jewish run restaurant in the Jewish quarter. We were entertained by Jewish music and ate traditional Jewish food. We remembered how once, a population of Jewish people had thrived and enjoyed life.
The final day eventually came and it was time to leave. After another delicious, hearty breakfast, we left for the airport. We all wished we were there longer but missed our families dearly – especially now we realised how lucky we are to have a family, liberty and a moral society to return to. As we go on, we keep the victims of the holocaust in our hearts. A phenomenal trip, that taught us all a lot.
Share this page...