So, we flew to Odessa on LOT Polish National Airline with a layover in Warsaw. First, we had to negotiate bringing seven additional bags with all kinds of gifts for the Ukrainian Jews we’ve come to visit – from the mundane (underwear and socks for a boys’ home) to the sacred (tallitot, kiddush cups and candlesticks for B’nai Mitzvah celebrants). Then, the flight attendants served me my kosher meals with genuine smiles.
During our layover in Warsaw, I wandered around the airport a bit and came across a store selling Poland “gear.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what my father would think if he saw me – or worse, my kids! – walking around in Poland gear.
Upon our arrival in Odessa on the way to our hotel, we drove by a statue of Bogdan Chmelnicki – one of the greatest anti-semites of all time (couldn’t get a pic – the bus was moving too fast!). It was hard not to think about the conditions under which my grandparents all left this part of the world (Ukraine, Russia and Poland) compared to the manner in which I am returning. I am very excited to meet the Jews of Odessa, Cherkassy and Kiev. I applaud their efforts to rebuild the Jewish communities that were destroyed by the Second World War and years of Soviet governance. I think it’s going to be a great trip.