Beginning with the before, Michael Kaftori told his story about being hidden for a couple of years as a teen and then having to make his way in occupied Poland. As mentioned earlier, his amazing journey of struggle and resistance leads him to the partisans.
We went to his hometown of Wladowa, a small town (big village) of 14,000 people today. We began our trip down Michael's memories by stopping at the Jewish museum and restored synagogue in Wladowa. It is a grand structure for this town. The artwork on the ark is stunning. And this was the place that Michael and his family used to come and pray. He attended yeshiva in a building that was directly behind the synagogue. There are no Jews left in Wladowa today. That part of the town is gone. However, the town has decided to rehabilitate these structures to commemorate and remember this past.
From there, Tzippy had arranged for Michael to meet the mayor of this town. And we all walked the four or five blocks to the city building to meet with him. The mayor was very gracious and met with our entire group to tell us a little about the town today and to answer our questions. And he talked "privately" with Michael (none in our group, except for our Polish tour guide Viktor and Michael speak Polish). Like in much of Poland, there is very high unemployment (~17% in this town) and not a lot for the youth. There is no university or college in this mostly agricultural section of Poland. For that you have to travel to Lublin, about an 1 hour, 45 minute drive. Which is in fact what we did after our trip to Sobibor.
Lublin is an absolutely adorable place. It still has a lot of the old architecture in place and for a Thursday night it was hopping. (I decided to head out without camera, fool that I am.) The old town section has been converted (mostly) into a pedestrian walkway with many restaurants, pubs, and shops. The old castle is lit up at night as were the ruins of church built in the 14th century and destroyed in the 19th. Unfortunately, we will not get much more time to explore this town.