Sunday, June 9, 2013

Visiting Bialystok for the last time...and a solemn moment.

Sunday morning early:  On our way to Bialystok for Branch Conference via the maze of sound tunnels. It was a beautiful morning....we almost had the road to ourselves!
Today, we also had two 'guests' with us in the car....our Assistants, Elders Tiner and Zelezniak. President needed to do a little planning for Zone Conference and the upcoming transfer and this seemed to be a good time to do it. Also, these two good missionaries were part of the Sacrament Meeting program.  They also need some training on driving around Poland to aid President Edgren when he arrives.
A well-known site in Bialystok...a huge Greek Orthodox Church. We were getting close to the chapel.
Today was a special day for this companionship. Elder Baranowski (left) was called as the new Branch President of Bialystok and Elder Hayes (right) is the new Branch Clerk.  President Dresler (Warsaw District President) was there for the Conference.
Side Note: The new 'Branch President' also has family in Bialystok. He has been able to visit with them on P-day for awhile and some are attending English class. (By the way...President Nielson did not know that he had family there. There are no coincidences!)
We ordered a wood Hymn number display board for the Branch some time ago.  It's lost somewhere between here and Germany.  So our creative and smart Elders came up with their own "display board" thanks to a little tape!  It works just as well and brought a smile to all the members.
Those who were in attendance today.  We appreciated Sister Rzeczycka (Warsaw District Relief Society President) for coming and teaching Sunday School.  We are grateful for Patty, Darota and Halina (she has read the Book of Mormon 15 times in the one year she has been a member of the Church).  What strong and dedicated members of the Church.
The Relief Society of the Bialystok Branch! These members love and take care of one another.
After church, it was time to head back to Warsaw. There is much to do in the next few weeks! Then we passed the following sign....
"Treblinka...Nazi Extermination and Work Camp".  This camp only functioned for just over a year (July 1942-August 1943) but over 800,000 people were killed here in this short time. In August of 1943, the prisoners organized an armed revolt. Guards were killed and 300 people escaped. After this, the camp was dismantled and a farmhouse was built to disguise what had formerly been there.
These concrete 'rail ties' mark the trail of the railway that brought prisoners to the camp. The average life expectancy for a prisoner at the camp was 2 hours.
The entire camp was destroyed by the Nazis but the huge field which was actually a burial pit is covered with memorials....the biggest being the one pictured above which honors the more than 310,000 people who were brought from the Warsaw ghetto to die here.
In the field are 17,000 stones depicting the towns, villages from many nations where (mostly) Jews and others were brought to be exterminated here.  The grass field was the burial pit and it surrounded by the stone memorials.
Many of the stones have the names of the places these people came from. It was a sobering visit. Treblinka was the 2nd largest concentration camp next to Auschwitz. 
Remember how peaceful and calm these sound tunnels were this morning?  The weather was beautiful and hardly no traffic at all. During Church, there was a huge thunderstorm. Because of this storm, on the way home we ran into the largest traffic jam of our entire mission.  We drove 2 kilometers in 2 hours! Because of the rain this afternoon some of the roads in Warsaw were flooded.  So the highways from Bialystok, Gdansk and Lodz were all blocked off.  There was no place to go.  We finally made it home. I was impressed that after three years in Warsaw, President knows his way around this city well enough to find all the shortcuts.  
It was a great day (and much longer than we had planned on) to be with the great members and missionaries in Bialystok.  We also learned more of the incredible history of Poland.  I am still amazed at what happened on the very streets we walk everyday.  The Polish people are strong and resilient. 

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