We’re already very found of the Center for Dialogue and Prayer (CDP) and its staffs. Working here are four cheerful young daytime receptionists and a grumpy man at night, the strong woman Berszka as the head receptionist and various maintenance men around. The German house priest Manfred and sister Mary from Ireland have both dedicated their lives to the center’s work.
They all know what we are here for and welcome us to sit in the lobby or to chat with them anytime. They’ve told us campers come and go, but that it’s rare to have people camping in their garden for over a week. Oswiecim isn’t exactly a magnet for long stays, they say, and as far as they know there has never been anyone doing a similar project to Ross. He has his own badge and can enter and leave the concentration camp (museum) whenever he wants to.
The house priest and Sister Mary have been here for respectively 30 and 20 years. Both have many similar tasks, but whereas Manfred works closely with groups of different Jews (and others) that come to seek answers and healing, Mary has more practical tasks of organising events like lunches and survivor speeches for the school groups. They both walk slowly, speak with comfortable voices and look you deeply into the eyes when you tell them something. They always comes over to my table for a daily small chat and when Ross is around at night they check on his work progress too.
A place gets a special touch with people like these. Ross and I talked it over and think it has to do with their clear and strong purposes with dedicating to the work of healing of the past for better chances of future world peace. Though I’m not religious I feel the presence of Goodness when they are around. Id like to have more time to just be around them all day, asking all kinds of stuff about this place’s history, happenings and the management of the concentration camp. One day, maybe..
I’ve already thought that I’d love to go back here to see the concentration camp in other seasons and to learn more about what tourism work in this place is like, and potentially write about it.
It’s so cool to think back at this stage, to when I was sitting by my desk in London, Leeds or at home on the farm, dreaming of a next journey.. I would never imagine ending up here in Auschwitz for two weeks with a longtime friend I’ve hardly spoken to over the last four years…
Ah, life is beautiful.