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A Trip to Tarnobrzeg

by Gayle Riley Schlissel

For many years I had desired to see the town my family came from, which I could only envision though the eyes of my twenty-five antique postcards.

Ten years ago I made contact with the president of the Tarnobrzeg Historical Society and those postcards had begun to bloom. With his help, I collected photographs of the two houses/businesses my family owned. They were in color. The yellow two-story house with snowflake white shutters became more colorful, with its carved mural over the back door. The house was located on the north end of the town square, next to the Catholic Church. My great-grandfather bought this home in 1902; his name was Chaim Josef Eder.

From the 1880 census I knew he sold flour, and who his children were and what their names were. They all followed their uncle Motel Eder to America, except David Eder, who with his family died in the Holocaust.

On the southwest corner stands the home of Moses Isaac Schlissel, my other great-grandfather. This tiny ugly corner business, along with the triangle median patch of land, with shrubs, still stands today, although it is being remodeled.

In 1994, I had planned to make my pilgrimage but the realities of life interfered. The town kept growing, as I could see though the pictures on the internet.

In 2001 my trip became a reality.

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The old synagogue, which I saw though the eye of the yizkor book, is now a Library, containing only a Holocaust plaque by which to remember its Jewish community. Except for its rectangular shape and the original front door, the library looked nothing like the synagogue. The old cemetery, which stood behind the synagogue, had become an ugly old metal market, which is no longer in business. One lonely tree remains. The building that contained the mikveh still stands, though it is a business.

Along the east side of the town square were the homes of the Jewish population, now colorfully painted. The Jews were initially only allowed to live in town, so the little villages of Dzikow, Miechoan, Wymslow, Bozow, Wielowies, Tryesn, Zupawa, Kajmow and Zakrzow housed the Poles.

To the north of Dzikow stands the manor house of the Tanowski family, just blocks away. The family wants to make it a museum; it is currently an agriculture school.

I am told that the children of my Schlissel family stood guard in the treetops of the orchards so that no one would steal the fruit.

In the part of the square called the little square, just to the east of Moses Isaac Schlissel’s store, once stood the only gas station in town. It was owned by Mendel Schlissel.

Many blocks from the town square stands the only Jewish cemetery now in Tarnobrzeg. It looks much like a jungle, proudly guarded by its keeper across the street. He likes it like a jungle; he says it would be difficult to keep the seedlings trimmed. No one provides this 80 year-old man any maintenance funds. He planted zinnias on the cemetery grounds.

There is an ohel, now painted sunny yellowish orange, with three plaques locked inside. The cemetery contains about 18 tombstone pieces. At the town’s historic museum, one solo tombstone from the old cemetery remains. Also to be found at the museum is a beautiful Seder plate.

The miracle of my trip home was when my friend introduced me to the photo historian of the town. I had been discouraged at not find more records that day. So that evening we all climbed the five stories of the old communist era apartment building to be welcomed with ice cream cake and the old Jewish death register for the town, containing deaths from 1903 until 1928. As I held this book to my heart, I shed a tear. Later, I would warmed with the knowledge the book contain all four of my second great-grandparents; Chaim Josef Eder and his wife Hudesa, and Moses Isaac Schlissel and his wife Glika Eder Schlissel. The next day this book, all 300 pages, was being photocopied in its 11×17-inch size.

On the 24th of July, my trip back in time was over. As I drove out of town, I sadly waved goodbye to the Synagogue, to the Jewish cemetery, to Tarnobrzeg.
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Gesher Galicia is a non-profit organization carrying out Jewish genealogical and historical research on Galicia, formerly a province of Austria-Hungary and today divided between southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. The research work includes the indexing of archival vital records and census books, Holocaust-period records, Josephine and Franciscan cadastral surveys, lists of Jewish taxpayers, and records of Galician medical students and doctors - all added to our searchable online database. In addition, we reproduce regional and cadastral maps for our online Map Room. We conduct educational research and publish a quarterly research journal, the Galitzianer. Gesher Galicia is also organized for the purpose of maintaining networking and online discussion groups and to promote and support Jewish heritage preservation work in the areas of the former Galicia.

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