Book by Hanka Grupińska: I Came Home and There Was No One There: Conversations and Stories about the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto
I Came Home and There Was No One There: Conversations and Stories about the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto
Translated from the Polish by Jessica Taylor
Series: Jews of Poland
ISBN: 9798887192598 (hardcover) / 9798887192680 (paperback)
Pages: approx. 500 pp.; 215 illus. (b&w)
Publication Date: April 2023
This book comprises interviews with some of the last surviving veterans of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw ghetto, accompanied by never previously published photographic “postcards” from a number of ghettoes, and a reconstruction of the only surviving contemporary list of those soldiers that strives to salvage vestiges of their stories from oblivion.
The first part of the book, “Still Circling,” is a collection of interviews with the last surviving soldiers of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB), which fought in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The section opens with an interview recorded in 1985 with Marek Edelman, who at that time was the last living commander of the ŻOB, and ends with another conversation with him recorded in 2000. The other interviewees included are also ŻOB veterans—rank-and-file soldiers, men and women. These veterans relate the stories of their homes and their backgrounds—some were Bundists, others from Zionist or religious families—followed by their recollections of how they experienced and remember the uprising, which provides several unique perspectives of shared episodes. Images include portraits of the interview subjects as well never before published photographs of the ghetto and its surroundings that are reminiscent of postcards.
The second part of the book, “Rereading the List,” is intended to function like a litany of the names of the ŻOB members who fought in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. This “list” was compiled by fighters in 1943 and discovered by the author in 2000. Each name is accompanied by a short story about the fighter—sometimes only a sentence or two—as well as any available photograph of the soldier. The list is followed by a reconstruction of the ŻOB army, which captures its divisions and the places they fought.
Hanka Grupińska is a writer and teacher. In the 1980s she collaborated with underground newspapers and was one of the co-founders of the Poznań-based quarterly Czas Kultury, for which she wrote, translated, and edited texts. In the 1990s she lived in Israel, where she was cultural attaché at the Polish embassy, and spent six years gathering material for her book on Hasidic women, Najtrudniej jest spotkać Lilit (currently in translation under the working title Lilith among the Storks). For several years, Grupińska worked on documenting the history of the extermination of the Jews and is the author of several non-fiction volumes on the Holocaust. She has spent the last decade observing the vicissitudes of the Tibetan people, which captured in her volume Dalekowysoko. Tybetańczycy bez ziemi (Highupandfaraway: Landless Tibetans). She occasionally teaches creative writing classes at universities and colleges in Warsaw.
Table of Contents
Part One. Still Circling: Conversations with Soldiers of the Jewish Fighting Organization
Recording the Holocaust
What Was of Importance in the Ghetto? Nothing! Nothing! Don’t Be Ridiculous!
Back Then, There Were Many Legends . . .
Someone Must Have Pushed That Closet up Flush from Outside . . .
I’m Telling You so Superficially Because I Don’t Remember
Well, I’m Here, Aren’t I?!
Truth Be Told, I Left My House in 1942 and Never Went Back
And That’s All My Life Story
I Know What I Know, And I Remember What I Remember
None of It Is of Any Significance
Part Two. Rereading the List: Stories about the Soldiers of the Jewish Fighting Organization
List of Those Who Fell in the Defense of the Warsaw Ghetto
A Rereading of the List
A Cemetery of Letters, a Cemetery of Words