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Student Reflects on Travel to Poland & Slovakia

Student Reflects on Travel to Poland & Slovakia

Student Reflects on Travel to Poland & Slovakia


The trip took students across historic sites in Poland and Slovakia.

Staff Photographer

April 27, 2023

Jami Huang '25

It is not an exaggeration to say that my perception of the world has changed dramatically since traveling with the school to Poland and Slovakia during Spring Break. 

When I decided to go on this trip at the beginning of the year, I didn’t quite know the weight of my choice. Not only have these two small Eastern European countries given me new perspectives on the tragedies of war, but they have also enlightened me to new food, architecture, and culture. I would like to thank Mr. Moon, Ms. Dixon Moon, Ms. Repass, and everyone who made this special trip possible. 

We started the trip in Poland, and I was surprised to see how much the country still bore the marks of World War II. The Warsaw Uprising Museum, the Old Town, and the Jewish synagogues and ghettos all displayed the rebirth of a city completely destroyed by war decades ago. On our four-hour bus ride to Krakow, we decided to watch the movie Schindler’s List to gain perspective on Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow and the Auschwitz concentration camp, which we were on our way to visit. 

Snuggled up in my seat, I watched the black-and-white film unravel on the TV as we drove through the gray and rainy weather. 

It is important to note that the entirety of the movie is in black and white, except for one little girl’s coat, which is a vibrant red. This red stands out against its dull background, and it conveys a powerful message when in one scene it is on a living girl, and in the next, it is peeking out of a pile of corpses on their way to be burned. 

This symbol of resilience and hope, juxtaposed with death and despair, poses the question of how a faint, flickering splash of red could ever be enough to light up a world engulfed in darkness. 

By traveling to the Dream Day Center in Slovakia, we came to our own conclusions. Last year, when I heard the news that Russia invaded Ukraine, I was shocked – but was too quickly swept up in the distractions of everyday life to sit with the news in a meaningful way. This made me realize how the comfort routine makes war seem so far away. So, I made the conscious decision to travel to a country close enough to feel the impact of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. 

The choice to come to Slovakia was a way of forcing myself to face the reality of modern warfare, and the troubling fact that war is not just in history books. 

On the day before we visited the Dream Day Center, which cares for intellectually disabled Ukrainian refugee children, Mr. Moon shared a story about one of the little boys, Sasha, who was born with autism to a Ukrainian mother and a Russian father. His father left his family and fled back to Russia at the outbreak of war, but when his mother tried to flee with the four-year-old to Slovakia, the people on the bus drove them out halfway through the ride because Sasha couldn’t keep quiet. They were denied many times when they begged for shelter, until, finally, they found shelter in a barn. 

They were there for a week before finally making it to Slovakia, where the Dream Day Center took them in. As we sat on the floor, waiting to be introduced to the children, I made eye contact with Sasha as he peeked at us from behind a teacher. 

I waved at him. He giggled, then ran to me and sat on my lap. I was stunned – Sasha suddenly became real to me. His story became alive, and with it, so did the war. 

We spent a whole day with Sasha and other children like him. Sasha likes drawing, basketball, and running laps around the track. He doesn’t like dancing, football, and staying still. His smile was radiant and contagious the entire day. Many of us found ourselves in tears when we waved goodbye. 

Hotchkiss in Poland & Slovakia gave me the opportunity to learn the stories of people who are very far away from my life, and my experiences there will stick with me forever.

It was a trip that tied the past to the present and made me reflect on myself on a deeper level, and I am sure this is true for my peers who joined me in this journey.

Jami Huang is a staff photographer for The Record.

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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