It is difficult to explain the shock of seeing the road sign of a place I heard about all my life but could never think of as real. Seeing the road sign before actually entering town helped me accept that Jedwabne exists outside my father’s rendition of it.
My father drew for me from memory a map of Jedwabne, a place he had last seen seventy years earlier. He prepared me with vivid and compelling images, with names of streets and the exact location of the family home. The map was accurate. Following my father’s specific directions, I walked the precise number of steps from the wall of the Christian cemetery to the spot where his old wooden home once stood.
First excursion, summer of 2001. I knew at some point I would need to confront strange and conflicting emotions.
Stasio and I entered an old building on the edge of town in Lomza that held archives of the surrounding region. We asked for any information about the family “Wasersztejn.” The archivist brought out two documents that Stasio explained were town records (payment of taxes or insurance). On line 94 of one sheet, I saw what seems to be the name “Izaak Wasersztejn” at address 15 Przestrzelska Street. With heavy heart, I moved my hand across the line.