Auschwitz (file)
Auschwitz (file)Thinkstock

The Second Annual Ride for the Living, a unique event combining commemorating the Holocaust with bicycling, will take place this Friday.

Inspired by Jewish Community Center of Krakow (JCC Krakow) member Robert Desmond who cycled 1,350 miles from London to Auschwitz visiting World War Two sites of liberation, Ride for the Living implores participants to not just remember Poland’s Jewish history, but to celebrate the Jewish life that exists today in Poland.

JCC Krakow members, staff and friends from around the world will come together for the second year for the 55-mile ride from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the JCC to raise awareness and funds to ensure the future of Krakow’s Jewish community and celebrate Jewish life in Poland.

Ride for the Living is an annual event under the patronage of Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich. Both local and global participants will tour Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday; join the Jewish community of Krakow for Shabbat dinner on Friday night after the Ride; and then participate in the 7@Nite Festival on Saturday.

Last year’s participants raised funds for a trip for Holocaust survivors from the JCC’s Senior Club to visit Israel – many for the first time.

"As a Polish Jewish community leader, I see too often organized groups from the US and abroad bypass the great renewal of Jewish life here," says Jonathan Ornstein, Executive Director of JCC Krakow. "Ride for the Living will bring together people from around the world to celebrate Jewish life in Poland – a bright spot in a darkening Europe.”

One Ride for the Living participant stands out among the eighty who will be taking part this year. Marcel Zielinski - an 80-year old Auschwitz survivor living in Montreal, will be joining the Ride with his wife, son, granddaughters and several friends to trace with them the route he walked 70 years ago and to relive his liberation.

When he was liberated from Auschwitz as a ten-year-old boy, Marcel walked with a group of children back to Krakow where he was reunited with his mother at the local Jewish orphanage.

"Jewish life is starting to return," Zielinski says of Krakow. “It is encouraging to see this kind of revival."

"The Ride for the Living is important because Jewish life in Poland is flourishing. Jewish communities around Poland are growing and while we acknowledge our loss as a people here, we can’t focus only on the loss," said Rabbi Schudrich.