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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » March 12, 2008
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Poland to Restore Citizenship to Expelled Jews
March 12, 2008   
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Polish President Lech Kaczyński has pledged to restore Polish citizenship to Jews forced out of the country during an anti-Semitic purge in 1968 by Poland's then communist authorities.

"This was an evil and shameful period in our country, one that was very detrimental to Poland," said Kaczyński, speaking at a ceremony to mark the events of 1968 at Warsaw's Dworzec Gdański train station March 8 and to unveil a memorial plaque there. Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz and prominent actress Gołda Tencer, known for promoting Jewish culture in Poland, were in attendance along with several of those who had to leave Poland 40 years ago.

Following a wave of protests against government censorship beginning March 8, 1968, the communist authorities blamed people of Jewish origin for social unrest, and launched a campaign to purge Jews from public life. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Polish Jews were driven out of the country, forced to leave their homes, belongings, families and friends behind. Kaczyński said that it was important to remember these events to ensure they would never happen again in Poland.

For Tencer, an actress at Warsaw's Jewish Theater, Gdański station symbolizes all the train stations from which Polish Jews were packed off in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "This is a monument to those who left and those who stayed. A reminder of the pain," she said. Tencer stayed in Poland but had to part with her brother, who left Poland. "My wonderful world ended that March," she said. "Everything ended overnight. I am glad that my son now lives in a democratic Poland," she added.

Many friends who had parted at Gdański Station back in 1968 were there to meet again. "I can remember my son and me saying good-bye to our friends as if it were yesterday. I am 87 years old and I still cannot understand why we had to part ways here," said Mieczysław Jędruszczak, who served in the Polish underground army as a colonel during World War II.

Tencer said the commemorative plaque on the wall of the station was a plaque to the enduring sorrow of departure.
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