We had one important stop to make on our way through Warsaw before we reached the venue where we would perform. Krochmalna 43.
My grandfather grew up on Krochmalna Street, at the corner of Waliców. It used to be rare for me to hear him talk about his childhood and life before the war. He certainly never mentioned his family – his parents, his 2 brothers. In Poland, he talks about them more openly. As we drive around, he keeps mentioning his father, how he would be amazed at all the construction going on, how he should be alive to see it. As we pull up to the street, I realize Krochmalna 43 does not exist. Even though my grandfather refers to the number, there is no Krochmalna 43. The street now starts at 45. Not only is the old building gone, so is the entire address.
He came here to say The Mourners Kaddish, a prayer recited in memory of those who have died. The words, however, never mention death at all. “…Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded…” just endless words of praise that go on like a mantra. I prefer to think of this prayer as a mantra. Because sometimes, it is useless to think of appropriate words. Sometimes, there are no words.
Our driver smoked a cigarette and waited. We got out of the cab, and I followed my grandfather on to the sidewalk. We stood together in the middle of the barren block, at the entrance to a nondescript open driveway, under an empty lamppost. He started the words of the Kaddish, and I joined him. When we finished the last word, we stood there for a moment. Then we got into the cab, the driver flicked his cigarette, and we moved on.