March 2017 provided many opportunities to the students of SJF. One of these was the trip taken by thirty-eight students and seven chaperones who travelled to various cities in Europe in order to learn more about the Holocaust. Once we arrived at our first destination of Berlin, we were introduced to our tour guide Ingo who would accompany us to each location on our trip, providing historical, language and practical advice throughout the duration of the trip. Although the nature of the trip was indeed somber (that could not be further evident by our trip to Auschwitz to understand the persecution of Jews during the war before its liberation in 1945), there were also moments where we were able to experience the many other opportunities that Europe had to offer. Thanks to the extensive planning from our chaperones, we were able to make perogies, attend a classical concert, ride on a boat around Prague and watch a hockey game in Berlin. We were also given time to freely wander and uncover local delights like German currywurst and Trdelníks in Prague. Not only did we learn about the Holocaust but also interesting facts and bits of information surrounding each city we visited like the Berlin Ampelmann and the Defenestrations of Prague in 1618. Needless to say, the trip was every bit enriching as expected. This trip has allowed all of us to gain a deeper understanding of the events that occurred during WWII and reminded us to appreciate every moment and never take our lives for granted.Thank you once again to everyone that made this trip possible.
-written by SJF student
After returning to our normal and boring lives in Canada, recovering from jetlag, and giving all of our souvenirs away, we’ve been able to take some time to think about the amazing things we saw and experienced in Europe. Of the many incredible restaurants we ate at, most of us will fondly remember our first supper together at an incredible restaurant in the Prenzlauer Berg, where we either had an unforgettable risotto or our first (of many) European thin crust pizzas. We also had our first encounter with apfelschorle: the unbelievably addictive fizzy apple juice. We always went to a new place to eat supper, and no two restaurants were the same. Whether it was the boat themed pub, or the basement of a chic tavern, we never were disappointed in our eating locations. Riding in the train to Poland was another thing that most people had never done before. Many jokes about the “Hogwarts Express” and “Snack Trolleys” were made. This train ride also gave us the opportunity to see some awesome Berlin Monuments, including the breathtaking golden domes of the New Synagogue. We saw the bizarre graffiti along the train line, and when we finally got into Poland, we were witnesses to the gorgeous Polish countryside. There were of course some darker, more emotional experiences on this trip. In particular, Auschwitz-Birkenau and the visit to the Jewish Ghetto. We’d studied and seen pictures of both of these places, but we were still not ready for what we saw. The massive scale of Auschwitz was something that caught everyone off guard. The endless rows of cabins that all looked like literal horse stables, or the open and chilly latrines. When we went on a walking tour of Warsaw we saw the remnants and re-creations of imposing Ghetto walls. Seeing all of these horrible sites, where some of history’s worst atrocities happened gives way to a sense of pain and learning, and gives us an experience that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Despite the emotional toll of those days, we were able to keep a happy and joyful attitude, largely thanks to Ingo, our legendary tour director. There’s a lack of words describing our respect and love for Ingo. Who else can put up with 38 annoying kids? Or have a bus wide sing-along to “We Are the Champions” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Ingo helped make the tour constantly fun and entertaining, and without him the trip probably wouldn't have been the same. For many of us, this twelve day trip was too short. Even if we were given twenty-four days it still wouldn’t have satisfied us. Seeing Europe with our friends, meeting new people, and getting taught by some of the greatest chaperones that our school has to offer is something none of us took for granted. If we were lucky enough to relive this trip again, I know that none of us would change a single thing, we would happily do it all again.
-written by SJF student