Ewa Junczyk Ziomecka, the consul general of Poland, is a journalist by training who, in 1980, observed the shipyard strikes in Gdansk that led to the Solidarity movement.
She was forbidden to report on them by the communist-led government at that time.
But with the rise of social media, such “secrets” are harder to keep today.
“Because of social media … when something happens, we can react,” Junczyk Ziomecka said during a visit to Buffalo Wednesday.
She was invited by the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies to take part in an award ceremony during the group’s annual meeting in Kleinhans Music Hall to honor Dr. Norman L. Weinberg and his wife, Hannah, for their work with the Poland Jewish Cemeteries Restoration project.
The Weinbergs founded the project in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies in 2001.
“I’ve known Norman and Hannah for a long time, and since the communist collapse 22 years ago, there has been a lot going on in new, free and democratic Poland,” Junczyk Ziomecka said.
“First of all, we are discovering the history, which during the communist [reign] was either manipulated or completely covered [up]. So now we have discovered the history of our land, and one part of this history is the history of Polish Jews.”
Junczyk Ziomecka said that during the communist era in Poland, citizens didn’t have enough information.
“Now you have so much that you are confused because you don’t know what is important and what is not,” she said, adding that social media allows the world to react more swiftly to injustices than was possible in the past.
“Now, we know what is going on in Syria. We know what is going on in many other places in the world where people are still suffering. … We have no excuse. We have to react, because now we know. Media are giving us [the impetus] to be much more responsible in responding to anything wrong in our world in order to have peace and save the world.”
Peter Fleischmann, director and chief executive officer of the foundation, said the Weinbergs’ work has attracted contributions and interest from around the world, including that of Junczyk Ziomecka and the Polish government. Of the 1,200 Jewish cemeteries that existed in Poland prior to World War II, Fleischmann said all were desecrated or destroyed by the Nazis, leaving little indication of where the cemeteries once were.
In 2001, the Weinbergs began to systematically go from town to town in Poland, beginning in the village where Norman Weinberg’s parents were from, gradually restoring more than 30 cemeteries. The Polish government has recognized the efforts of the Weinbergs, and they received the Order of Merit from the government of Poland.
Junczyk Ziomecka said the history of the Jewish people in Poland is vital to both Jews and Poles.
“They lived in Poland for almost 800 years and disappeared, were killed, during the Holocaust,” she said.
“During [World War II], the Nazis occupied Poland, which had the biggest Jewish diaspora in Europe, for the extermination of Jews. So, after the war, there were no [longer any] Jews [or] not many.” From 3.5 million, only a handful remained after the war, she said.
“During the communist [era] … one of our losses was the loss of our Jewish communities,” she said.