Each year, the AJC welcomes volunteers and interns from around the world. Many young people from countries neighboring Poland serve on behalf of the Holocaust Memorial Service, an alternative experience to mandatory military service. This question and answer conversation is with our volunteer Oksana Naumchuk, whose hometown is Zhytomyr, Ukraine. We’re very glad that Oksana chose to work with us.
What attracted you to the AJC?
To be honest, when I was looking for a European Voluntary Service project, AJC attracted me mainly because of the opportunity to work in the tourism field. But when I came here and started to learn about the history of the city and the stories about Jewish-Catholic relations, I was so surprised! I realized the importance of the work we do here as volunteers and museum workers. We tell stories about life! For almost every tourist, Oświęcim is the city of death, but we show them another side of this city. And for me this experience of challenging stereotypes and learning about history is very important and useful.
What are you enjoying most about your volunteer experience?
I enjoy challenges. It was really hard for me to start speaking in foreign languages with people whom I don’t know. I spent a lot of time learning about history, a subject which I had considered to be boring for all my life before working at the AJC. Learning how to work in the museum’s café also took some time. Even though my accomplishments here may not be the biggest victories in my life, they are important. Understanding their importance brings me a lot of joy!
How has volunteering affected you?
I have become a more open-minded person; am learning how to learn in everyday life and not just in a school or university; and moving to a new country has made me more independent.
What is one thing you’d like others to know about the AJC or think people don’t know?
I would like tourists to know our location. There are so many German groups, yet not as many from other countries. It’s a pity. This is a great place to learn more about history!
The Auschwitz Jewish Center is operated by the Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. For additional blog entries by and about the Auschwitz Jewish Center, please visit mjhnyc.org/tag/ajc. All Summer 2018 newsletter articles are found here.