One morning toward the end of our work in the cemetery, I saw the usual army of children arrive, excited and chattering, and probably already surrounding Tatyana. But suddenly I noticed that many of the girls were carrying their own buckets, brushes, and rags to use for cleaning the gravestones. We had been cleaning them for the past few days, and supplies -- buckets and brushes -- were running short because so many kids were helping. I realized that each of these bucket-carrying girls must have told her mother about what kind of work she was doing, what kinds of tools she was using, and how there were so many people working that we were running out of materials. Each mother in turn must have given her daughter the proper materials from her own supplies.

There were times during the trip when I wondered whether our work was doing what we wanted it to do -- bringing back the history and memory of a lost community. Sometimes it seemed that 60 years might as well have been 200 years -- that no one remembered, or if they did, they were content not to think about it. And sometimes -- especially every time we went to a synagogue and listened to the Rabbi chanting those wonderful, haunting prayers -- I was overwhelmed by a feeling of loss for the thousands of communities that simply don't exist anymore, and will never exist again, no matter how much we try to bring them back in our memory. I think the more I read and see and learn about all this, the less I understand, and the more I end up giving into my emotions. Lunna's is just one cemetery among thousands that have yet to be restored or even discovered. It is a nearly impossible task.

But those girls with their buckets and brushes made me so happy. Maybe some of them didn't understand what we were doing or why we were doing it, but most of them probably did, and their mothers did as well, and their families did, and they all wanted to help in whatever way they could. And those girls worked hard -- they scrubbed off the stones and scraped dirt out of the Hebrew letters, moving from stone to stone for hours on end and being so joyful the entire time.

So that's one of the things I'll remember when I think of Belarus. As for the rest... the saddest moments for me were walking through the Warsaw Ghetto and thinking about what people can do to each other and not understanding it at all. The happiest moments were when we were having fun as a group -- working together in the cemetery, eating pierogis or drinking vodka, talking on the bus and train and in hotel rooms, wandering through Krakow, Grodno, and Warsaw.

Everything on the trip felt so real, from the vast foreign/familiar beauty of the Nieman River that looks so much like the Connecticut to the smiles of my host family to the feel of a gravestone on my fingers to the delicious freshness of homegrown strawberries and cucumbers to the rustle of leaves overhead as we sat and talked in the cemetery our last day of work. I will always remember our trip to Belarus as a time full of life and sunshine and dirt and the kind of happiness that comes from spending time with wonderful people.

Cordelia Zuckermaní06