Oral history
History witnesses

Marek Cecuła

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Józef Markiewicz
Przemysław Jaczewski
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
29th August 2019
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
Jews in Poland

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Interlocutor biogram

Marek Cecuła was born in Częstochowa in 1944. His parents came from Kielce, mother from a Catholic family, and father from a Jewish family, thus they had to get married in secret. They were called “Kielce Romeo and Juliet”. They settled in a house at the Kielce market square.

During World War II, Cecuła’s father got enclosed in the Kielce ghetto, from which he escaped to Częstochowa. He obtained the documents of his colleague’s deceased brother, and along with them a new name that he used for the rest of his life (earlier it was called Motel Kohn). For two years he was hiding in Częstochowa in a cache under the floor. Then he landed in a camp. After the war, he opened a car parts store at the Kielce market square. On July 4 1946, he was out of town, thanks to which he escaped the Kielce pogrom. After this event, the Cecuła family moved to Częstochowa for two months.

In the 1950s, the family was preparing itself for emigration to Israel. The departure did not take place because of the death of Marek Cecuła’s father. The 16-year-old Marek decided to leave alone. His father's brother, who sent him a ticket, had been living in Israel since the 1920s. He made a short trip around Europe and sailed from Naples to Haifa. He stayed in Jerusalem and studied ceramics for several years. He served in the army. Then he settled in a kibbutz, where together with a group of friends he founded an artistic commune. He got married and his daughter Ida was born.

After spending twelve years in Israel, he moved with the artistic commune to Brazil. The commune broke up, and Marek Cecuła, together with his wife from the United States, moved to New York in 1976. There, inspired by the artistic atmosphere, he began to develop his ceramic creativity. He set up his own studio and gallery, worked as an academic teacher, headed the ceramics department of one of the art schools. At the end of the 1990s, the artist moved his ceramic studio to Poland and gradually began to re-tie his life with Kielce. He ran the Kielce Design Centre. In cooperation with Polish Porcelain Factories, Ćmielów and Chodzież, he opened Ćmielów Design Studio. The subject of remembrance about Kielce Jews appeared in his works. He designed the sculpture entitled Menorah, which was unveiled on the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Kielce ghetto. He is also the author of a project of a mass grave of victims of the Kielce pogrom.

Recording circumstances description

The interview took place in Marek Ceceuła’s studio in Ćmielów.

Recording summary

  1. Preliminary information about the family fate during the war; origin of the surname Cecuła - acceptance by Marek’s father of the documents of a friend's deceased brother; contact with the members of Cecuła family who were interested in the way people having their name came to Israel; 00:00:30
  2. Cecuła family return to Kielce after the liberation of the interviewee’s father from the Dachau concentration camp; Kielce pogrom; escape from the pogrom; 00:03:25
  3. Lack of talk at home about father's Jewish origin; the interviewee being occasionally called Jew by his schoolmates; 00:05:00
  4. Thoughts about departure from Poland by the interviewee’s family; his decision to leave Poland in 1960; family’s earlier preparations for departure thwarted by the death of Marek’s father; departure of the interviewee from Poland - a tour of Europe; travel to Israel; 00:05:30
  5. Beginning of life in Israel; learning about family history; discovering Jewish identity; 00:06:55
  6. Several years of studying ceramic art in Jerusalem; joining the army and participation in fights; settling in a kibbutz; leaving the kibbutz with a group of acquaintances and setting up an artistic commune; 00:08:08
  7. Transfer of the artistic commune to Brazil; departure to the United States in 1976; 00:10:30
  8. New York's artistic atmosphere in the 1970s; interviewee's interest in conceptual art; 00:11:35
  9. Choosing Poland as the place for porcelain production; curiosity about the changes taking place in Poland around 2000; development of innovative design in Poland; 00:13:05
  10. Taking from Poland an album about Ćmielów porcelain; current cooperation with the Ćmielów factory; opening the firm and its development; 00:14:40
  11. Story of Marek Cecuła’s parents love for each other; mother's origin from a Catholic family; father's origin from a religious Jewish family; father’s assimilation; no consent for marriage from their parents on both sides; Marek’s parents secret wedding; settling at the Kielce market square; 00:16:15
  12. Father's identity; growing up in a Polish-Jewish home; 00:19:44
  13. Father's fate during the war - escape from the ghetto, hiding under the floor in Częstochowa, camps; 00:21:04
  14. Interviewee’s family contemplating the departure from Poland; 00:22:25
  15. Interviewee’s double Polish-Jewish identity; choosing Jewish identity; dedication of artistic works to remembrance of Jews and Marek’s own identity; 00:23:30
  16. Making a work of art from chips of porcelain, is to symbolise the mixing of elements of the history of Jews and Poles, two identities; attributing the function of remembrance to artistic creation; 00:26:10
  17. Kielce residents’ resistance to learning the truth about the Kielce pogrom; 00:30:25
  18. The need for an artistic response to social disavowing the fact of pogrom; greater impact of works of art than of scientific studies; Whitewash installation as an example; 00:32:25
  19. Actions in remembrance of Kielce Jews and pogrom organized, among others by the Jan Karski Society; 00:35:25
  20. Israelis' perception of Kielce as a cursed city; learning a different perspective on Polish-Jewish relations while in Israel; the formative importance for the interviewee of staying in Israel; 00:36:35
  21. Having different inspirations for creativity in New York and in Kielce; 00:38:25
  22. Return to Kielce with a new identity; passing to siblings the knowledge about Jewish part of the family; silence about Jewish origin in Jewish and Polish-Jewish homes after the war; 00:38:50
  23. Contact with a family who stayed in Poland during emigration; interest in the political situation in Poland despite living elsewhere; 00:41:05
  24. Military service in Israel; 00:43:10
  25. Changes taking place in Poland after 2000; a sense of belonging to the Polish society with a new identity; 00:44:10
  26. Continuation of historical Polish-Jewish relations in the interviewee’s activities; production of ceramics for the POLIN Museum souvenir shop; 00:46:28
  27. Father's shop with car parts; 00:47:50
  28. A sense of belonging to the Polish society; 00:48:35
  29. Feelings related to the townhouse at 7/9 Planty Street; placing the menorah monument at a busy passage; 00:49:02
  30. Synagogue; house of prayer; relocation of the house of prayer; 00:53:10
  31. An exhibition at the market square about the Jewish community of Kielce; 00:55:00
  32. Work on the monument at the Jewish cemetery in Kielce; educational project directed at children, consisting in making toys for murdered Jewish children, and further practice of bringing toys; 00:56:00
  33. Respect for the Jewish religion; interest in Judaism and Kabbalah; 01:01:10
  34. Showing appreciation for the activities of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews; 01:03:05
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