Since June, work has been under way to restore the Memorial Pillar in the Bagnowka Jewish cemetery in Białystok, which commemorates the scores of victims of bloody anti-Jewish violence in the town: the 1906 pogrom and two massacres in 1905.
The painstaking restoration has now been completed, and the tall, black monument, in the form of an obelisk, was reinstalled at its site in the cemetery on November 3.
The work was carried out in the Warsaw-area workshop of conservator Bartosz Markowski, by approval of the City of Bialystok and supervised by Filip Szczepański of the Rabbinical Commission for Cemeteries, Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland.
JHE friend Dr. Heidi Szpek-Idzikowski, Professor Emerita at Central Washington University and translator, epigrapher and historian of the Bagnowka Jewish cemetery, described the end result of the restoration as “simply stunning,” thanks to Markowski’s “extraordinary skill with stone, attention to detail and timeliness.”
Watch a video of the reinstallation of the pillar by Dr. Tomek Wisniewski, pioneer in Jewish heritage work in Białystok and its region and founder and director of “The Place” Jewish museum in the city:
The restoration project was coordinated and funded by the U.S.-based Białystok Cemetery Restoration Fund (BCRF), of which Dr. Szpek-Idzikowski is vice chair, which has posted each step of the process, with photos and description, on its web site — click here to read it.
The BCRF said that the area surrounding the pillar will be “manicured and seeded” in the spring, and a formal rededication is planned for August 11, 2024.
The pillar itself was victimized in the mid-1980s, dumped on the nearby City Cemetery, bearing scars of its vandalism. It was rescued in 1985, thanks in part to the now Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, and the Bialystok Center in New York. In the mid-1990s, a poor attempt at restoration was undertaken, encouraging further deterioration.