Unique Place of Jewish Heritage in Warsaw

In Hebrew, a cemetery is called a “house of eternity”. The Jewish cementary in Warsaw Okopowa Street was established in 1806 on the initiative of the Jewish community. It is one of the largest Jewish cementaries in Europe and still in use. There are 85,000 artistic gravestones in different shapes and forms, with inscriptions in Hebrew, Polish, Russian and German and a variety of ornaments and symbols, surrounded by old trees. All together, it creates a peaceful and reflective atmosphere on 33,5 hectare. Every season gives another impression of the graveyard.

The variations of tombs and gravestones show how diverse the Jewish community was: Spiritual, political and cultural leaders are buried here, including Marek Edelman who was the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Ludwik Zamenhof who created the artificial language “Esperanto”. On the cemetary is a mass grave of nameless victims who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The cemetary was a part of the Ghetto. Before the war, the cemetary was named “cemetery on Gęsia” and included a funeral house and a synagogue. The oldest tombstone is from 1809.

According to the cemetary’s website, conservation works take place every year where you can join as a volunteer. Here you can see the impressions of my visit:

The symbol of a giving hand indicates that the buried person has been a philantrophist.

The inventor’s tombstone of Lazaro Ludoviko Zamenhof who invented the universal language Esperanto. I took this picture when I first visited the cemetary in autumn 2021.

Kyudo – the Historical Art of the Samurai

Imagine a sport where you have to stay as calm and focussed as possible. A sport where you follow a detailled choreography until you shoot an arrow. A sport where the perfection of movement is more important than actually hitting the target. Welcome to the world of Kyudo, the art of Japanese archery.

Using bow and arrow, the Samurai were able to shoot with pinpoint precision and undefeated elegance. After the introduction of fire weapons in Japan, archery became obsolete on the battlefield but continued to be a part of the Samurai training – as an art and philosophy. This is also when the term Kyudo developed, meaning “the way of the bow”. Yumi is the name of the Japanese longbow whose current form stems from the 15th century. Its length is adjusted to the body size of the archer and is approximately 2.20 m long. The bow is solely produced in Japan and is made out of bamboo. Pulling the bowstring weights at least 9 kg and can go up to 20 kg.

The athlete adjusts the string to the bow

This ancient tradition is upheld by various sport clubs all over the world. One of them is the Kyudojo Club in Frankfurt Main. Active since the 80s, they recently built their own beautiful wooden Kyudojo which is the practice hall for Kyodo. It is as if one enters a totally different world – calm and quiet as the sport (or shall I say mindset) itself. The training lasts two hours. During the break, everyone comes together and drinks tea. Tea is an inherent part of Japanese culture. Women and men wear the same clothing, except that women wear breast protection. Before shooting, the athletes follow a detailed choreography where each movement has its own purpose.

The arrows are equipped with real feathers. “It makes a huge difference“, says one of the athletes, “feathers stabilise the arrow“. The target stands outside the training house at a 28-meter-distance, the same distance as on the battlefield in the past. The archers shoot through the windows.

The distance always remains the same at Kyudo. Only beginners start at closer proximity aiming at straw blocs. What is needed to master this sport? “Patience and perseverance“, says trainer Andreas Naumann. He holds the 2nd Dan which means that he is advanced in the art of Kyudo.

According to the International Kyudo Federation, there are 10 Dan grades. For the accomplishment of the 9th Dan “the truth of Kyudo should be transparent“. The requirement for the 10th Dan is even not mentioned. So this sport is worth a try to find out the truth of samurai!

Author: Julia Solbach

Editor: Julija Laurinaitytė