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Jewish Journal

Report from the exhibition “Is war Men’s Business”, Poland

Monika Opalińska Poland

April 29, 2012 | 2:00 pm

On the 23rd of April in the Historical Museum of Krakow Oskar Schindlers Emalia Factory, located at Lipowa 4 street, there was a festive opening of the exhibition titled “Is war men’s Business”. The title refers to the strongly established, well known stereotype and popular saying associated with Winston Churchill. However, the inclusion of twelve portraits featuring women proved that they too were active in war.

Often we discuss the merits of men when looking at heroic fights, soldier attitudes, and the underground conspiracy and partisans. Yet, Mrs Beata Łabno, the author of the exhibition, decided to focus on womens’ roles in war—their contribution to both fighting and heroic deeds that many men would have never made. At the time women had to be brave and were often forced to make very difficult decisions that demanded strong character, total determination and strong dedication. War took place not only on the battlefield but also invaded everyday life, threatening day to day activities and the security of one’s children.

Females were deprived of protection and had to face the unsafe environment , while at the same time becoming strong support for their husbands, fathers and sons. They had to move beyond their gentleness and weakness in order to become strong individuals that would play a big role in history. Women did not stay idle and passive. They were strongly involved in charity—they hid and protected Jews and helped identify prisoners. Many of them actively took part in the war as women soldiers or conspirators, risking their lives and paying the highest price for their courage and dedication.

Memoires and various certificates and documents donated by the families of these twelve featured women are very valuable proofs. People who walked through the exhibit, even those who were not personally connected to the time period or events, were strongly effected by numerous pictures, souvenirs and exhibits.The atmosphere almost recreated the history. Many of the exhibits were borrowed from the Warsaw Royal Castle as well as from the Jewish Historical Institute and many other historical institutions and organizations.

Portraits of those chosen twelve women who had been so unique in their individual way of fighting the occupant acts as a testimony to the great influence they had over the fate of many. Women should not have been seen only as victims of war, but also as main participants of many conspiratorial actions. Without them and their generosity and strength many plans and projects would have not been realized. It was really worth going through those women’s life history because they deserve to be regarded as real heroins.

Being there at that exhibition, seeing their faces on the pictures and reading their biography made me think how strong minded they were and how difficult their life was, and I admit I strongly admired those women who never gave up on fighting even in the darkest times.

You can see photos here: http://jewrnalism.org/home/news/item/37-report-from-the-exhibition-%E2%80%9Cis-war-men%E2%80%99s-business%E2%80%9D

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Jews visiting Central & Eastern Europe frequently come with stereotypes and prejudices about the region.  In particular, group heritage and education tours for young Jews...

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