In the 50s Bialystok Poland’s communist era local government used Jewish gravestones (Matzevot) for retaining walls, water channels, and grading walls. Until just yesterday (May 9, 2014), in the center of the city there stood a fountain, long defunct, constructed of Matzevot.
Extract and Translation of Gazeta Bialystok:
No effective protest was raised until summer 2013. Frequent visitors to Bialystok expressed dismay to officials but little seemed to happen. Several meetings with city officials took place.
In the summer of 2013, meetings took place in a renewed atmosphere of urgency and focus to solve this long-standing problem. Members of the Beit Polska Progressive Jewish community raised the issue and were actively supported by the Bialystok grassroots movement Normalny Bialystok. A letter of protest written by a Catholic clergyman Father Lemanski was sent to the Bialystok mayor Aleksander Sosna and published in the local press. In January, the Mayor Sosna promised that with the arrival of Spring 2014 the embarrassing problem of misuse of the Matzevot would be addressed. Numerous community friends as well as Father Lemanski’s February 2014 visit to Bialystok helped to bring attention to this issue.
Yesterday Bialystok’s newspaper Gazeta announced that the work of removing the tombstones had begun.
By coincidence the long scheduled visit by Fr. Lemanski to Warsaw’s Beit Warszawa, the flagship congregation of the Progressive Polish Jewish movement took place this Saturday evening, May 10 at 7 pm. The historic visit of Fr. Lemanski is an expression of this priest’s unique stance of active friendship toward Jews. Fr Lemanski spoke on the topic of his experience of the practice of Jewish-Catholic relations. Father Lemanski shared the Seudah Shelisheet meal (third meal of the Sabbath) with over 50 participants; attended a lesson in Pirke Avot taught by Beit Warszawa’s Rabbi Gil Nativ and then answered questions and engaged in discussion for over two hours.