Wednesday, July 31, 2013

H&P Department Sponsors World Refugee Day! By Dr. Joseph Sankoh

June 20th is World Refugee Day.  This year, Daemen College was among many organizations around the world that participated in the celebration of this important occasion.  With funding from the New York Council for the Humanities and sponsored by the faculty of the History & Political Science Department, various local refugees (including some History & Political Science students) shared their sad stories and experiences about their displaced countries to their new found country of the United States.  It was a very good and successful event with over 68 people in attendance; including faculty, students and staff from Daemen; people from community organizations and the community-at-large; students from Saudi Arabia; a representative from the Office of the Mayor of Buffalo; and collaboration with BIREC (Buffalo Immigrant and Refugee Coalition).

Among the speakers were two student speakers:  Saladi Shebule, a native of Kenya and a 2013 Daemen graduate (Political Science major); and Maryann Jamale, also from Kenya, who just finished her first year at Daemen.  Saladi and Maryann talked about the experience of being refugees and how that had shaped their experiences as American college students.   

We plan to undertake another refugee event this coming academic year, focusing mostly on refugees from the Middle East, Asia, and Southeast Asia; with a keynote speaker from the University of Toronto. These programs are all part of our new Refugee Studies program initiated by the faculty of the History & Political Science Department.  For more information about the Refugee Studies program, please contact Dr. Joseph Sankoh, Associate Professor of Political Science, at

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Presentation of the History of World War II in Polish Museums. Posted by Kaleigh Ratliff.

During the few months leading up to my departure date for Poland, all I could think about was visiting museums in Warsaw and Krakow. As I continue to work towards a MA in Museum Studies, I am conscious about observing the content, message, and display techniques in museums that I visit.  I will discuss the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, and the exhibition "Krakow under Nazi Occupation: 1939-1945," which is located at the site of Oskar Schindler’s Factory.

 The Museum of the History of Polish Jews

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw is not completely open to the public, but we were able to tour some of the building and watch a video about the future exhibits. It is clear that careful thought and planning was put into the creation of the mission of the museum and the physical building.
The museum aims to tell the story of Jews in Poland by discussing their rich culture and contributions to Polish society. The architect of the building designed the main lobby to resemble the parting of the Red Sea.

Entrance to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews

The design of the main lobby made me feel trapped. Some of the other people on our tour suggested that it felt like a “wound in history” and a journey from darkness to light. I am impressed that the architect was able to make me think in such a critical way and make me feel connected to the story of the Jews in Poland simply with the shape of the lobby.

The architect set the tone and feeling of the museum by addressing the complex past of the Jews in Poland. The front entrance of the building faces the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Memorial, which reminds us of the brutal experiences of Jews during the German occupation in World War II.

Looking out on the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Memorial

In contrast, the back side of the building faces a large field which is open to the public for leisurely purposes.
Looking out on an open field
The building addresses darkness and death, while also remembering to reflect on light and life. I hope that I will be able to return to the museum when it is completed. It is important to discuss and learn about difficult topics in history, but it is also crucial to realize that history is made by people who had lives, families, and careers. This museum appears to tackle this balance well. 

The Warsaw Uprising Museum

The Warsaw Uprising Museum was my favorite museum. During my first few minutes in the museum I was bombarded with emotions and thoughts. The words “intense,” "overwhelming,” “moving,” and “real” came to mind as I took in the design and display of the content.
This museum does an excellent job of recreating the atmosphere of the Warsaw Uprising of August-October 1944. Dark and blunt colors were used to create intensity. Cobblestone, wooden, and uneven brick floors mimic the actual look of the streets at that time.

Inside the Warsaw Uprising Museum

There were smells that made me feel like a part of the history, and the use of noises -- such as planes, bombs, music, and voices -- brought the events back to life.

Model plane producing sound effects of dropping bombs
Because the museum discusses an extremely specific event, I was pleased to notice that all labels and exhibit text panels are similar. This creates a sense of continuity that gives the museum an impressive flow. Gruesome materials are hidden so that visitors have the opportunity to choose if they want to view them.

One section of the museum is made to resemble the sewers that the fighters stayed in during the Uprising. The floor is uneven, the sound of running water is present, and the tunnel is dark and damp.

Inside the sewers

View from the sewers of a plane overhead

This museum is respectful and effective in conveying the feelings and events of the Uprising. It is also very engaging; I left feeling overwhelmed, but I believe that the museum curators intend to make visitors feel that way. It is impressive to say the least!

Schindler’s Factory

Schindler’s Factory is extremely similar to the Warsaw Uprising Museum in terms of successfully portraying the look and feel of the time period.

Marker outside of Schindler's Factory

The museum focuses on the story of Oskar Schindler, a German who saved the lives of Jewish workers at his factory. The museum places this episode within the overall story of the German occupation in Krakow.
Nazi flags on exhibit inside the museum at Schindler's Factory

 The Nazi occupation of Krakow is introduced in innovative and effective ways.

Flooring at the museum at Schindler's Factory

Overall, this museum utilized noises, lighting, and reproductions of buildings, trains, and streets to bring alive the history of the German occupation of Krakow during World War II.

Posted by Kaleigh Ratliff

Monday, July 22, 2013

Daemen Students in Przemysl

Przemysl is a beautiful city (pop. 66,756) located in eastern Poland. Ukraine is only a few miles away, and the thousand-year history of Przemysl is closely connected with the western region of today's Ukraine.

View of the Old Town in Przemysl.

The winding streets of Old Town are dotted with old churches. Pictured below is the Roman Catholic Archcathedral, which was extensively renovated in the 18th century in the Baroque style.

Roman Catholic Archcathedral, with Bell Tower to the right.

A legend tells the story of a hunter who killed a huge bear on the site at which the city was later established. The bear has served as the symbol for the city of Przemysl for centuries.

Bear fountain in Old Town.

There are new developments in Przemysl, too. The National Museum of the Przemysl Land opened to the public in 2008.

Daemen students on the roof of the National Museum on the edge of Old Town in Przemysl.

One permanent exhibit at the National Museum features dozens of paintings and devotional items from the Polish and Ukrainian Christian traditions. Many of the icons were painted by artists from the Przemysl region.

Medieval icon depicting St. George slaying a dragon.

The National Museum also currently features a temporary exhibit of works by contemporary Polish artist Jozef Wilkon.

A more whimsical dragon on exhibit in the National Museum in Przemysl.

Students from Daemen College and PWSW began their coursework in Przemysl on 8 July. The lecturer for the first week was Dr. Tomasz Pudlocki (Jagiellonian University). Dr. Pudlocki is pictured below in Old Town, after a business luncheon with other faculty.

Pictured left to right: Agata Obratanska, Andrew Wise, Tomasz Pudlocki, and John Hartman.

The PWSW campus features a splendid palace built by the Lubomirski family in the 19th century.

The Lubomirski Palace on the PWSW campus.

Restoration work on the palace and the surrounding grounds is ongoing. Recently the garden area was restored to fit with the original vision.

Newly renovated gardens on the PWSW campus.

Coursework in Przemysl focuses on the theme of Polish-Jewish relations in the twentieth century. A service learning project engages Daemen and PWSW students in the continued restoration and preservation of the local Jewish cemetery that was damaged during World War II. Dr. John Hartman has led these efforts for two decades, and his foundation (Remembrance and Reconciliation, Inc.) oversees any related project.

Faculty and students outside the Jewish cemetery in Przemysl.

Dr. Hartman travelled to Przemysl to spend a week providing lectures and orientation tours of the Jewish cemetery for students.

Dr. Hartman with students on the PWSW campus.

Daemen and PWSW students are engaged in mapping the cemetery, which will provide precise locations for each grave. In years to come, images and biographical data will be added to an online guide that will help family members around the world find information about their ancestors and the location of their graves in the Jewish cemetery in Przemysl.

On 15 July, Dr. Joseph Sankoh (Associate Professor of Political Science) arrived from Daemen College to conduct a seminar on service learning and take part in the program.

Dr. Sankoh, Dr Hartman and students discussing the service learning project.

Look for blog updates on the service learning project in the coming days.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Welcome Class of 2017!

Freshman Orientation took place on July 15-16 & 18-19th on the Daemen College Campus. Incoming students participated in a variety of activities and events, including meeting with a representative of their respective Academic Departments.

Our newest History & Political Science majors are an inspiring group, with interests in international politics, diplomacy, human rights, law and teaching. The History & Political Science Faculty look forward to working with our new majors to ensure a happy, productive, and high-quality educational experience. 

Students Taking Part on July 16: On the Far Left: Orientation Leader, Arthur Cruz (Political Science, 2014)
 Back Row: Nicholas, Nigel (both Political Science) and Stephen (Adolescent Education)
Front Row: Nyoka and Ashley (both Political Science)

Students taking part on July 19: Christina and China (both Political Science)
 and Orientation Leader Arthur Cruz (2014, Political Science)

There will be a full departmental meeting with all of our majors on Thursday, September 26.    

Welcome to the Class of 2017!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Depictions of Women and War in Polish Museums. Posted by Elizabeth White.

During World War II many Poles organized an underground resistance, or Home Army, in order to fight against the German occupation. Various monuments and museums honor these courageous people for sacrificing their lives for the greater good of their country. 

However, it is important to remember that men were not the only members of society fighting for freedom. Upon visiting the Warsaw Uprising Museum, I realized that a substantial number of women throughout the entire country assisted men in defending Poland during the war in a wide variety of ways.  Roles that women played during this trying time include:  fighting in the underground resistance, providing medical and spiritual aid for members of the Home Army, and rescuing Jews from the ghettos. 

Women providing aid during the war. 

A plaque at the Warsaw Uprising Museum (see photo below) commemorates the efforts of Krystyna Krahelska, a Polish woman who joined the Home Army during the war.  Krystyna is also remembered for composing battle songs and providing medical assistance to wounded soldiers specifically at the time of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

 Krystyna Krahelska

During World War II, Irena Sendler was a young Polish social worker in Warsaw. She was provided  with access to the Warsaw Ghetto by the German authorities in order to monitor the spread of diseases. But she was also director of the Children's Section of the Council for Aid to Jews (known as "Zegota," this organization had been created by the Polish Underground), and she used this opportunity to rescue Jewish children from the horrors of the Holocaust. 

Irena Sendler

By the time the war was over, Irena saved approximately 2,500 Jewish children and received a Righteous Among the Nations award in 1965 for her outstanding accomplishments. 

The photo above shows a tribute to the women and men who decided to come to the aid of their Polish-Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust (on display at the Warsaw Uprising Museum). 

Posted by Liz White.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Daemen Students Visit World War II Monuments & Memorials in Poland. Posted by Tyler Vanice.

As we travel from place to place in Poland, we can feel that there is a vast amount of history that has happened in our local surroundings. How can we tell? We can tell simply by the number of monuments and memorials that are scattered throughout Warsaw and Krakow. We have seen dozens of statues, monuments, and memorials in our days of travel, but I recall several dedicated to World War II that seem special.

In Warsaw there is a monument dedicated to the Ghetto Uprising that occurred in 1943. It was built only a few years later in 1948. The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes was built with leftover supplies that were meant to be used by the Germans to build a monument for Adolf Hitler to celebrate his wartime victories.

The front of the monument (see below) is called “The Fight” and it shows the rebellion that occurred. Innocent civilians are running from the burning ghetto in the background.
"The Fight"

The reverse side of the monument is called “Walk to Death” and it shows the suffering the Jewish community had to endure during the war.
"Walk to Death"

Another important monument is the Bunker Memorial at 18 Mila Street (18 Pleasant Street) in Warsaw.  A house was once here and it was used to hide Jews and Jewish militia who were fighting back against the Germans.

Bunker memorial

During the Ghetto Uprising, it was attacked for weeks on end. Instead of giving their lives to the Germans, many Jewish fighters committed suicide. This land and memorial have been saved to preserve the memory of those who fought and died.

Marker at the 18 Mila Street Bunker Memorial

The Willy Brandt Memorial is also located on the same property of the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Memorial.  This honors West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s visit to the Heroes Memorial on December 7, 1970. Brandt was a German socialist who escaped from the Nazi regime and was in exile from Germany during WWII.  During his 1970 visit to the Ghetto Heroes Memorial, he kneeled down and prayed for those who died during the war.

Willy Brandt Memorial

During our visit to the Oskar Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow, we came across a room in the building that had the walls pasted with the words and memories of those who lived during the war. This room felt oddly silent and empty, even though there was music and people were inside.
Caitlyn Ebert and Kaleigh Ratliff inside the Room of Choices

This room is called the Room of Choices. It makes one reflect on what happened and how other individuals felt during that time.

The photo below does not show a monument. Yet nearly seventy years after the war this place still overwhelms all who visit.  This room is not just any room. This is Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Barracks at Birkenau

Here is where many inmates had slept. People would sleep in groups of 3-6 per “bed,” being piled up as high as the room would allow with nothing but hay. This particular room was meant to be a stable for horses but was converted when the camp needed more room for the mass amount of people living there. The fireplace never was used because resources were thin, so at most the fireplace was used for sitting on and to give false hope to those living there.

Stay tuned for more blogs from Daemen students about our experiences here in Poland and also in Ukraine.

Tyler Vanice

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Daemen Students in Krakow

Daemen students (and friends) in front of the Adam Mickiewicz memorial in the Rynek Glowny.

Daemen students taking part in the Daemen College-Panstwowe Wyzsza Szkola Wschodnioeuropejska (PWSW) exchange program visited Krakow from 4-7 July. We were delighted to see Jordan Sieracki (third from left in the photo above), who is studying at the Jagiellonian University as a recipient of a Tomaszkiewicz-Florio Scholarship from the Kosciuszko Foundation. Participants in the Daemen-PWSW summer program (to the right of Jordan as you view the photo) are Kaleigh Ratliff, Liz White, Tyler Vanice, Chelsea Sieczkarek, and Caitlyn Ebert.

While in Krakow, students toured the medieval center of the city. For centuries, Wawel Castle was the residence in the capital for rulers of Poland, and Wawel Cathedral contains the tombs of many famous Poles.

Wawel Castle and Cathedral

For example, the crypt below Wawel Cathedral holds the tomb of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, one of the Polish heroes of the American Revolution.

Kosciuszko's tomb in Wawel

Perhaps the most challenging part of any visit to Wawel Cathedral is the long climb up a narrow wooden stairway to the top of the Sigismund Tower.

Daemen students under the gigantic Sigismund Bell

Although the climb is tiring, the exhilarating panoramic view from the tower makes it all worthwhile.

View of Krakow from Sigismund Tower

On 5 July students visited several sites associated with Jewish history in Krakow, as well as museums dealing with the fate of Krakow during World War II. Lecturers provided historical context for each visit to various branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow.

We began our day on 5 July with a visit to the Old Synagogue in the Kazimierz district, which was the center of Jewish life in Krakow for centuries.

Old Synagogue in Kazimierz

From Kazimierz it is a short walk to the site of Oskar Schindler's factory. Here the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow opened a new museum in 2010 that integrates the story of Shindler's factory into the broader story of Krakow during World War II. Our lecture tour focused on the permanent exhibit dedicated to "Krakow Under Nazi Occupation, 1939-1945."

The Museum at Schindler's Factory

We concluded our day with lecture tours of two other branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow: Apteka pod Orlem (Eagle Pharmacy) and Pomorska 2 (Pomorska Street no. 2). Located within the walls of the ghetto constructed by the Germans, the Eagle Pharmacy was managed by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, who is one of the Righteous among the Nations. Pankiewicz bribed German officials in order to keep his pharmacy open, thus providing medicines to Jews in the ghetto as well as a meeting place for them.

Inside the Eagle Pharmacy

2 Pomorska Street was the location of Gestapo headquarters in Krakow during World War II. The remaining prison cells provide the cornerstone for an exhibit on "People in Krakow in Times of Terror: 1939-1945-1956." As the title implies, this exhibit deals with the fate of Krakow during the periods of Nazi terror and Stalinist terror.

Graffiti on a prison cell at Gestapo headquarters in Krakow

On 6 July, students toured the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camps  in Oswiecim. Students will also visit the Majdanek concentration camp outside Lublin on 19 July. Future blog entries will discuss these sites in more detail.

This rail line ends inside the camp at Birkenau.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Travel Tips for Study Abroad

The Grunwald Memorial in Krakow, dedicated to the Polish-led victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410.

Daemen students who are taking part in the exchange program with Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkola w Przemyslu have some travel trips. This advice is based on our recent experiences in Poland. We hope that they might be helpful to you! 

Keep your passport with you at all times and make copies of your passport to leave with your family. “Keep your friends close, but your passport closer.”

Open a separate checking account for the money you have budgeted for your trip. 
Know the exchange rate and bring US dollars to exchange when in the country for a better rate.

Pack lightly and make sure you leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs.

Use space saving bags for your clothes to create more room.

Bring a small backpack for excursions.

Invest in a good power adapter. The more you spend, the more reliable it will be.

Bring a camera with plenty of batteries.
Buy a phrase book, map, and guide book. (Lonely Planet is a great resource.)

Bring shoes that you are comfortable walking long distances in.

If you use a towel for your hair, bring a Turban style hair towel with you.

Bring adhesive bandages for your inevitable blisters.

Be open to trying new foods.

Journal everyday.

Don’t stress about the small things. Stay positive and you will have an amazing experience!

Caitlyn Ebert enjoying the sites in Krakow.

Kaleigh, Caitlyn, Liz, Chelsea, and Tyler