FIRA The Jews of Poznan. A story about life

Project Fira

Fira, photographs of Poznan Jews

OkladkaOne story and over seven hundred photographs. They are like tangible evidence that those people got in love, had fun, experienced failures or fear, dreamed and planned their future. They were young with their whole lives ahead of them. And then, they got killed. Poznan Jews of the interwar period. We don’t know much about them. They are like Atlantis, anonymous and lost. There are no photographs, no faces, no memories of them. There are no names, no stories. There are only dumb places.

There were only 2500-3000 Jews in Poznan before 1939. They constituted a little over 1% of the Poznan population, which was 250 thousand people at that time. They were different from the Jews living in other regions of Poland and more similar to those of Western Europe. There were no Hasidic or Orthodox Jews among them. There was no Yiddish heard in the streets. All Poznan Jews lived like the people around them. They spoke Polish, got dressed like the others and weren’t religious. So, from a Poznan perspective, Jewish Poland is far from the stereotypical image.

The project Fira, the Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life is like a time machine or a peephole that let us look into the past. Our book-album and the website publicize a set of over one thousand photographs collected in six albums by Fira Melamedzon from Poznan. On May 31, 1939,  24-year -old Fira left for Palestine to join her father, who had been stayed there for over a year. In September, Fira’s mother closed their men’s garment shop at the Old Square Market 64, settled all emigration formalities, and eleven days before the outbreak of World War II, she disembarked at the Tel Aviv Port. This saved not only those three people but also Fira’s memories that had not been changed by the war experience.

The photographs in  Fira’s albums are the unique material  forming the unusual publication. Their number, which is around 1300, is unique too, especially that there have been preserved few photographs of Poznan Jews ( there are also photos presenting the Jews from Brzeziny near Lodz and other towns in the albums). It is also unique that all the photos belong to one story, which was told in 2012 by 97-year-old Fira Melamedzon-Salanska. The fact of remembering and being able to tell the details of the events that happened seventy or eighty years ago is very impressive. What makes the story even more impressive is that it had been photographed. You can hear, read  and see it. The text and the pictures combine into one recollective and photographic narrative.

Fira Melamedzon-Salanska kept saying for years, „As long as I live, they live in me” and she kept telling her stories, as the people she loved could have lived only in them. She died in May 7, 2014, at the age of 99. She didn’t live to see the book, but she knew it would be published soon. We want to continue and save her account by this project. Also, we want to return to Poznan its Jewish society from before the war. We would like it to be a memory of the city and the region, and a fragment of a history of Polish Jews. We hope to bring the Wielkpolska Jews out of the non-existence, where the war pushed them. Our book and website may not save everyone, but this is probably the last direct account.

The main characters of our project are the Poznan Jews, their feelings and everyday lives. However, the collective character of the book and website is also the interwar Poznan, which is seen as the background of the photographed people. That city no longer exists today. Fira’s account of that world, even when slightly embellished, is equally exceptional as her photographs, as it tells about carefree youth and fulfilled or unfulfilled loves. This is a story about happy life, which doesn’t line up with our image of the Jews. The Anti-Semitism in Fira’s account is like snowing. It is there, but it’s not the most important element. Also, unlike her peers from other parts of Poland, Fira doesn’t wish to get out of constricting spirituality and the shtetls’ poverty, as there were no shtetls in Poznan. There is no revolt resulting from a lack of chances, or placing hopes in the left wing. Her story is different. One can say it is just a middle-class one. Certainly, it is, but what makes it so exceptional is that it is written by a person enjoying life. Fira loves, flirts, dances, laughs and lives life to the fullest. She tells about youth, falling in love, seeking happiness and shaping her life. And this developing, pulsing life crashed with our knowledge of the Holocaust, which they didn’t have, creates drama and reveals the scale of the murder.

If you are interested in this story, we encourage you to find more details in the specific elements of our project. One of them is the book-album Fira, The Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life containing almost 300 pre-war photographs from Fira’s albums and her account since 1924, when her father came to Poznan, till her leaving for Palestine in 1939. The second element is the exhibition of photographs of Poznan Jews from the albums of Fira Melamedzon-Salanska, which can be seen in the Raczynskich Library in Poznan till September 2014. The third one is our website with pages like FIRA1915.PL containing 400 photographs, FILMS with recorded Fira’s memories, and finally RECOGNIZE THEM, when you can bring us some new information completing the story.

The first presentation of our project took place in May 31, 2014. This date was settled unintentionally. Only after Fira’s death did we realize that this day was the 75th anniversary of her leaving Poland. After three-quarters of the century her photographs and stories came back to the city where they arose. It is an unbelievable coincidence of dates. Also her albums came back to Poznan. Fira Melamedzon-Salanska decided to give them to the Raczynskich Library after her death.

Fira Melamedzon-Salanska was born in April 19, 1915 in Kharkiv. Her father, Abram Melamedzon, was a Russian Jew. Her mother, Rachela nee Dymant, was a Polish Jew from Brzeziny near Lodz. Fira’s first language was Russian. Only after her family had fled Soviet Russia in 1920 and lived in Brzeziny, did she learn Polish. Fira’s father was a merchant. He run a men’s garment shop in Kharkiv, and then in Poznan. The Melamedzons moved to Palestine just before the war, avoiding death. Fira spent 75 years in Palestine, then in Israel and never came back to Poland. Nevertheless, she had felt a Polish Jew for her whole life. She got married, had two children and numerous family then. She was kind, friendly and always optimistic. Her six albums, full of photographs of the people, who were killed made her feel responsible for telling their stories. So, she kept doing it whenever someone visited her.

 

 

 

The authors and producers of the project:
Andrzej Niziolek, Ksenia Kosakowska, Tomasz Adamski, Tomasz Niziolek

Project contributors:
logotyp_barak_kultury

SN-CD_logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project co-financed by:
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Poznan Know How

The book-album and the website were created thanks to Samorzad Wojewodztwa Wielkopolskiego’s and Poznan City’s funding and cooperation with the Barak Kultury Foundation and the Synagoga Nova Centrum Dialogu Foundation. Using the funds of SWW the Ba-Q Theatre produced a performance „The Toast”, based on memories of Fira Melamedzon-Salanska (more: http://barakkultury.pl/pl/wydarzenie/96)

FIRA1915.PL

Both the materials placed in this section and the book-album
become an integrated whole. You can read and see them independently,
though simultaneously, through using the same numbers
in the book and below. They are interconnected and complement each other.

We share here above 400 photographs from Fira’s albums,
which are divided into 55 theme parts. They are expanded by some materials
from Poznan Archives and those Fira’s memories that were not printed.
At the same time, there are 54 following numbers on the book’s pages,
which send a reader to their equivalents on the website
for complementary information. The only exception is no 55,
which is available only at www.fira1915.pl.

In this way, we publicise almost all Poznan photographs from Fira’s collection
as well as many pictures of  Jews from Warsaw, Brzeziny, Biała near Bielsk, Lvov
and other Polish towns. Most of them are published for the first time.

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 32 33 34 35
36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 47 48 49
50 51 52 53 54 55

Movies

30 Fira 2012-1

Here is Fira Melamedzon-Salanska recorded by a camera. At the beginning of November 2012, during gathering the materials for the project, we managed to film recalling Fira. She is in her flat, filled with memorabilia, and tells what happened eighty years ago in Poznan, and why she had never come back to Poland. You can look through one of her albums with her and listen why she doesn’t like farewells.

The selected fragments of this record are divided into theme parts.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

 

 

A fragment of Fira Melamedzon-Slanska’s memories, where she is telling about her mother’s aversion to the scout organization Haszomer Hacair in Poznan (because it was a left-wing organization and the Melamedzons had escaped from communistic Russia losing most of their fortune), about one of the Haszomer’s head and her boyfriend Felek Mornel, and about student balls, which were the reason for her having been expelled from Jewish Scouting in 1933.

Recorded by Ami Drozd, Jerusalem, November 2012.

The remaining part of recorded memories of Fira Melamedzon-Salanska will be available here as soon as the book has been published in Polish.

Recognize

382 - 0687 Fira

Some people in the pictures placed in the book and on the website are unknown. We know nothing about Poli, Fira’s schoolmate from the Faculty School. We don’t know many Poznan Jews, Fira’s acquaintances or the people she met during her holidays, like the Jews from Lvov, whom Fira met at the camp in Zakopane.

Probably, the majority of them are dead today. However, their descendants may live and recognize their mothers, grandfathers or uncles. Maybe, some copies of the presented photos are in someone’s old albums. Maybe, some of the Jews captured in the pictures survived and his or her descendants live in America, Europe or Australia today. And maybe, you will recognize Fira in a picture from your grandma’s album. We are waiting for such materials and information. If you recognize anybody or know his or her name and story, please write to our address: fira@fira1915.pl. We will be placing here any information we get from you.

LOOK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News

“FIRA” AT THE 25th JEWISH CULTURE FESTIVAL IN KRAKOW

“FIRA” AT THE 25th JEWISH CULTURE FESTIVAL IN KRAKOW

June 24, 2015

We cordially invite you to the meeting dedicated to a book titled “Fira”, which will take place on Monday, June 29,2015, starting at 6 p.m. at the Jewish Culture Centre in Krakow- at Meiselsa 17. The event will be conducted by Andrzej Niziolek and Ksenia Kosakowska, the book’s authors, assisted by Janusz Makuch, the festival supervisor.

In the festival programme, we read: „Fira Melamedzon-Salanska was beautiful, wise and rich by her Jewish-Polish heart, which stopped at the threshold of her 100th birthday. She came from Poznan. She was a Polish Jewess, from whom Poland could learn patriotism. She was a zealous Zionist, who each day trembled for the fate of Eretz Israel. She lived and died in Jerusalem. “Safta Fira”- Grandma Fira. Two authors, Ksenia Kosakowska, her “Polish granddaughter” and Andrzej Niziolek, wrote a moving, wise and beautiful book about Fira, the era before the Holocaust, about “ a Jewish quarter in Poznan”, about memory. Ksenia and Andrzej, presenting unique photographs, will tell about long and extraordinary life of Fira Melamedzon-Salanska. She deserved our highest tribute. And love.”

„FIRA” WAS ANNOUNCED THE BEST BOOK ABOUT POZNAN IN 2014

„FIRA” WAS ANNOUNCED THE BEST BOOK ABOUT POZNAN IN  2014

March 21, 2015

Our album-book „Fira. The Jews of Poznan. A Story About Life” won the Jozef Lukaszewicz Posnania Prize (Lukaszewicz was the first legendary librarian of Raczynscy Library), which made it one of three  titles announced The Best Books About Poznan published in 2014.

The other two winners of this prize are: „Kowalski’s Furniture. People and Things” by Jacek Kowalski and “Modernism Familiarized. Poznan Architecture 1919-1939” by Szymon Piotr Kubiak. On 19th of March, 2015, both the authors and the publisher of “Fira”, Tomasz Adamski’s Exemplum Publisher, were awarded. More than 100 books and publications about Poznan, published in 2014, took part in this year’s competition, organized by the Raczynscy Library for the 16th time. You can find more information and photos of the prize-giving ceremony at:

http://www.bracz.edu.pl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1628&Itemid=100

„Fira” presented in a bookstore „Z Bajki” (13 of June) and in the Raczynskich Library (23 of June)

June 13, 2014

 

On Friday, 13th ofJune 2014, Andrzej Niziolek met with readers of the book-album „Fira. The Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life” in a Poznan bookstore „Z Bajki”. He told about Fira Melamedzon-Salanska and her memories about Poznan Jews of the interwar period. He also presented some photographs from Fira’s albums. The meeting was attended by several dozen people. Even though it lasted more than two hours, till the evening, nobody left before it had ended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Monday, 23rd of June, the next meeting presented our book, Fira Melamedzon-Salanska, her photographs and memories will take place. It will start at 6 p.m., in the room 1 of the old building of the Raczynskich Library at Freedom Square 19. The book will be available to buy there.

 

„Fira” on TV

June 09, 2014

If you are interested in the interview with Andrzej Niziolek  about the book „Fira. The Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life” conducted by Remigiusz Kozinski from Poznan television WTK, go to http://wtkplay.pl/video-id-11559-projekt_fira_1915. We repeat here the call to the readers, Poznan people and internet users in Poland and abroad for contacting us if you recognize anyone, or you know anything about his/her fates, or you have any photographs of Fira and the people mentioned in her memories or seen in the pictures.

The Jews of Poznan are back. The first presentation of the book

May 31, 2014

The representative room 5 of the old building of the Raczynskich Library didn’t hold all the people who came at noon to the first presentation of the book-album „Fira. The Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life”. Andrzej Niziolek and Ksenia Kosakowska, the authors, talked about creating and the content of the book and website as well as about Fira, Ksenia’s Israeli grandmother, who had saved the photographs and memory of Polish Jews.

Fira Melamedzon-Salanska died in May 7, 2014 in Jerusalem. She wished to pass her albums with the photographs of Poznan Jews to the Raczynskich Library. Fira’s family, her daughter Lili Rubin, her daughter-in law Eti Salansky and her four grandsons, came from Israel to the ceremony and solemnly passed the five out of six albums to the Heritage Collections of the Raczynskich Library. Now, they will be drawn up and digitalised. In the future, they will be make available to the public for journalistic, educational and cultural purposes.

 

Premiera 1

Unintentionally, the albums came back to Poland and Poznan exactly 75 years after their owner left for Palestine. Young Fira Melamedzon-Salanska crossed the border of Poland on her way to Palestine in May 31, 1939. The albums came back to Poznan in May 31, 2014.

Just after the celebration, an exhibition of enlarged reproductions of Fira’s photographs was opened in the Tea-house placed in a new wing of the Raczynskich Library. The curators of the exhibition are Sonia Rammer, a painter, psychologist and pedagogue at the University of Arts in Poznan and Andrzej Niziolek. The target of the exhibition was not to show again the pictures published in the book and on our website www.fira1915.pl but to let the Poznan people, drinking tea in the library public space, meet face to face with those who used to live in the same city and walk along the same streets.

Premiera 2

The photographs we show come for the Raczynskich Library’s collections.

Photographic and media reports of the first presentation of the project ceremony can be found at:

http://poznan.naszemiasto.pl/galeria/zdjecia/fira-poznanscy-zydzi-premiera-ksiazki-zdjecia,2292872,galeria,t,id,tm.html (“Glos Wielkopolski” newspaper)

http://www.radiomerkury.pl/informacje/pozostale/niezwykle-zdjecia-firy.html  (Merkury Radio)

http://www.gloswielkopolski.pl/artykul/3457047,fira-poznanscy-zydzi-opowiesc-o-zyciu-premiera-ksiazki-w-bibliotece-raczynskich-zdjecia,id,t.html (“Glos Wielkopolski” newspaper)

http://poznan.gazeta.pl/poznan/1,36037,16073910,Wraz_z_tymi_zdjeciami_wracaja_do_nas_poznanscy_Zydzi.html#LokPozTxt (“Gazeta Wyborcza Poznan” newspaper)

http://www.bracz.edu.pl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1371&Itemid=100 (the Raczynskich Library)

 

Fira died

Fira Melamedzon, the main character and narrator of our book, died on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem. She turned 99 on April 19. We wanted her to  get a ready book , for which she was waiting. We didn’t succeed, though we were very close. However, we succeeded in something else, which is very important to us. We have saved the memory of the Poznan Jews presented in her  photographs.  “As long as I Iive, they live in me,” Fira used to say. Owing to the book that comes out on May 31, they will live even longer. And she will live with them.

Good bye, Fira. Thank you.

 

Ksenia Kosakowska, Andrzej Niziolek

Fira at the Poznan Jewish Street Festival

On Sunday, May 11, we invite you to presentations of the interwar Poznan Jews’ photographs  from the albums of Fira Melamedzon-Salanska, the Poznan woman, who has been lived in Jerusalem since 1939. The book- album “Fira. The Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life”, which is ready for printing now, is based on these photos. The presentations will be a part of the Poznan Jewish Street Festival, organized in our city for the second time. Festival events will take place on Saturday  and Sunday, May 10 and 11, in the Adam Mickiewicz University Botanical Garden and in the Jewish Street.

There will be two presentations of the photographs on Sunday, May 11. First one will start at 11.30 a.m. in the Exhibition and Education Hall of the Adam Mickiewicz University Botanical Garden at Dabrowskiego Street 165. Second one will start at 5 p.m. in the Van Gogh club at the Jewish Street 12. Andrzej Niziolek, the book’s co-author, will present the photos and Fira’s memories of the Poznan Jews before 1939.

The book-album will come out on the 31st of May. On May 11, we would like to present you the whole “Fira” project including its publishing, exhibition and online components. Also, we will be presenting some fragments of the book. During the festival, the Poznan Jews’ photographs  from Fira’s albums will be hung in the windows of cafes and restaurants of the Jewish Street.

The detailed programme of the Poznan Jewish Street Festival can be found at www.poznan.jewish.org.pl

We are starting!

We will be placing here information about the project and giving you accounts of events relating to it . So far, we have got one message: we are starting!

Contact

Our e-mail: fira@fira1915.pl
Andrzej Niziolek: a.niziolek@poczta.onet.pl
Ksenia Kosakowska: ksenia_kama@yahoo.pl
“Exemplum” publisher: wydawnictwo@exemplum.pl

 

The project Fira. The Jews of Poznan. A Story about Life containing the book and the website has been produced by:

Andrzej Niziolek, born in 1963, a former journalist publishing in national and local newspapers. He is the author and editor of books like “Stopped at a glimpse” (album, 2000), “I discover. About Stanislaw Mrowinski” (2006), “The Bible of Journalism” (edited by Andrzej Skworz and Andrzej Niziolek, 2010). He lives in Poznan.

Ksenia Kosakowska, born in 1978 in Jastrzebie Zdroj, a philosopher interested in Jewish culture, a Polish “granddaughter” of Fira Melemedzon-Salanska. She used to live and work in Israel. Presently, she lives in Poland.

Tomasz Adamski, the owner of “Exemplum”, publisher.

Tomasz Niziolek, born in 1974, a historian by background, a graphic designer and typesetter by profession. He works in the Poznan National Museum in the pre-press field.

“Exemplum” publisher, found in 1997, in Poznan. It specializes in scientific publications, but it also publishes albums, memories, biographies and popular science books. More information at: www.exemplum.pl

Sonia Rammer, the art designer of the exhibition of photographs of Fira Melamedzon-Salanska in the Raczynskich Library.

Translated into English by Dorota Bulinska.