Letter to Henio


The “Letters to Henio” project began in the city of Lublin in 2005 as part of an activity to preserve and reconstruct the city’s Jewish heritage. A local cultural center, Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre, organizes this educational activity. According to the center’s director, Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, the main idea of the project is as follows: “It is impossible to remember the faces and names of 40,000 people. Remember one. A shy smile, white shirt with a collar, colored shorts, side haircut, striped socks… Henio.”

Every year on 19 April, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Poland, pupils and citizens of Lublin are asked to send letters addressed to Henio Zytomirski at 11th Kowalska Street, the last known address of Henio in Lublin.

I am not a citizen of Lublin, but I felt compelled to also send a letter to Henio. Howver I will not send it to his last known address but will post it below.

“Dear Henio,

I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

But looking at your last photograph I can see a proud young boy, standing straight and ready to pose for his picture to be taken. A white shirt, pure white socks the symbol of your purity and innocence.

You were only 6  years old when this picture was taken. It was perhaps taken after a long school day and you were eager to go home, to kick a ball or just to have a cod glass of water or lemonade.

Maybe it was a hot day ,because it was July 1939, and you were promised an ice cream after the picture was taken.

None of this was extraordinary because every child is entitled to have a treat after being such a good child.

A few months after this picture was taken at the start of a new school year your world was turned upside down, On September 1 1939, a foreign army invaded your country. A foreign army with ver bad intentions.

You this army did not only want to take all the land it also want to get rid of people like you. You were Jewish and according this evil new regime your life was not worthy.

First they took you and your family from your home in Lublin and were put into a ghetto, Then in November 1942 you and your father were sent to the Majdanek concentration camp, it was not too far away from your house.

But you were never to see your house again because on that day  November 9th,1942 you were murdered. You were put into a gas chamber where you died an awful death. You were only 9.

I don’t know you and you don’t know me but from now on ,every year on March 25th, your birthday, I will light a candle for you and remember you until the day that I shed my earthly coil.

And maybe one day our souls will meet.”


The Slovak invasion of Poland


You don’t have to be a History biff to know that September 1,1939 was the date when the Germans invaded their neighbours, Poland.

What often is forgotten is that it wasn’t only the Germans who invaded Poland on that day. The Germans got a  helping hand from the newly formed republic of Slovakia.

More Slovaks

And it was quite a substantial helping hand, approximately 50,000 Slovak soldiers took part in the invasion of Poland.

No one had envisaged  the attack from the independent Slovak state. Reason being there had not been a Slovak republic prior to 1939. The First Slovak Republic was only established on March 14th 1939, after Germany’s occupation of Bohemia and Moravia.

Adolf Hitler decided to create a puppet Slovak state, headed by Jozef Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest and leader of the Slovak People’s Party, the SPL.


During secret discussions with the Germans on July 20–21, 1939, the Slovak government agreed to partake in Germany’s planned attack and invasion of Poland. They also agreed to let Germany  use Slovak’s territory as the staging area for its troops. On August 26, the Slovak Republic mobilized its army and created a new field army, named “Bernolák”, which comprised of 51,306 soldiers.


The attack started on September 1, 1939, at 5:00 a.m.

At the start, Poland had a problem with the idea of treating Slovaks as their enemies, they even dropped leaflets requesting them to halt the invasion.

Even though the fighting between the Slovaks and the Poles was not really all that fierce and there were no real major battles, there were still casualties.

During the whole  campaign in September, the losses of the Slovaks amounted to 18 killed, 46 wounded and 11 missing. Approximately 1,350 Polish soldiers were taken prisoner. In January 1940, about 1,200 of them were transferred to the Germans and the Ref Army,  the rest were imprisoned in the camp in Lešť.


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