Driving to Oświęcim with Oleoski

Driving to Oświęcim with Oleoski

My name is Oleoski, I was born 250 kilometers from here in western Ukraine. There’s bad economics in Ukraine, so I come here to Krakow for opportunities. Opportunities to work, I drive Old Jewish tourists and I cook Kosher in kitchens. 

“Do you keep kosher?”

Me, no, I don’t have any religion. And definitely not Jewish. No, I cook Kosher for the Old Jews who travel to Oświęcim. For the history of the camp. A terrible thing. A holocaust, burnt sacrifice. Abraham brought Isaac to the top of the mountain as a holocaust. A shame they use the word and doesn’t call it Satan’s holocaust. This had nothing to do with God. This is a horror. 

“Have you been on the tour?”

Never in the camp. I sit outside. With a kosher food truck. The old Jews, they have a tradition. They have lots of tradition. They have all tradition. After they go to the camp, they sit in the square and eat goulash in the outside, standing, not talking. It seems they all want to do this, so I cook for them.

[Oleoski is thirty, but like many people in developing nations, he sounds old. As old as the Old Jewish people he cooks for.]

Many people come to the camp. Lots of opportunities here for tourism. But so sad. Sad to make money because of death. Ukrainians were murdered too, you know. Hungarians, Roma (he means gypsies), the Czech. Even Germans who are Jews, or priests, or broken people, the cripples. They didn’t just kill Polish people. That is horrible enough, but they killed even more than the Polish people. 

The snow means there will be few people here today. Not many. Have you decided how to go back to Krakow? I go to the camp with you. And drive you back. We decide. 

See? Not many in the line. 

[it takes 30 minutes to get in through the gate]

Sometimes two, three hours to wait outside. It’s a good day to be here. Except for the cold. For the snow. And for the death. 

If we go slow, we hear the tour, without paying the fee even. They let you listen, even if you don’t wear the signal that you paid. But this tour guide, he is no good. Let’s move forward ahead of his stupid. 

Here, this building. The history of the war. See on the map? I’m born very close to here in Krakow. Except in another country. In Ukraine. We speak Russian there because of the occupation. The Russians held Ukraine before. Now they don’t, except Crimea. They took Crimea back. Like the Germans take Poland. But no death yet, in camps. 

See here? These are the things they stole. The brushes, the eyeglasses, the tallit, for prayer. Each of these was a person. Who they didn’t see as a person. Even though the pray and shave and need eyeglasses.

[I’m reminded of Shylock’s speech, and wonder if Oleoski knows what he is paraphrasing or if he’s heard the play or is unfamiliar.]

These are the haircuts. They cut the woman’s hair to make cloths and mattresses. From the hair of the dead. This hair. These are women and children. They killed the men, and that is bad. But they killed the children too. And even woman. 

[My daughter is overwhelmed at the thought. And is ready to go. My son wants to finish the tour.]

I will take her out. It’s too sad for women. Too sad for women to be here then or now. 

[Oleoski takes my daughter out to the front, to a cafe. And lets her cry for a bit without comment, while my son and I see the gestapo headquarters and walk into the gas chamber. We leave and I am in tears]

My son imitates Oleoski and says “it’s too sad for women to be here then or now.”

576 432 Stafford Wood
Start Typing