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Senior Machers

A Macher is not an ordinary volunteer – it is a VIP among volunteers. A Macher speaks fluent English, is committed, energetic, open and communicative. They run in the highest gear for 10 days. For a very long time it was difficult to see seniors in this group, as nobody would think of them in such a way. How to work without the command of English with the volunteers from abroad? How to cope in a scorching sun for so many hours? How to find one’s own way in such a young team? They all made it and coped perfectly.

It all started with the Workshops for Seniors and a series of workshops organized for the residents of Kazimierz above 60 years of age. The seniors started coming to the workshops – and in a great number. They enjoyed the proposed activities, which were slightly different; they enjoyed being able to act, and above all – that they could meet young people. That they could spend some time together.

These relationships kept developing for years. We kept meeting every month and we were no longer only “this nice girl” – we learned our names or our passions and kept listening to one another, smiling at the sound of each telephone call with an invitation to the workshops. Once it was from Mr Jan who runs at 5.00 a.m. and once from Ms Maria who teaches her granddaughter to bake on Saturday afternoons.

At one of the meetings, Janusz Palarz, our current senior volunteer, told us that he had been coming to the Jewish Culture Festival since its first edition – when many of us were not born yet.

It was not only Janusz that has known the Festival for years. There were many others and they shared a view that they also wanted to give something from them, willing to “give back to the Festival what they took from it, because they received so many great things from it”.

It was 2017 and it simply happened. The first recruitment interviews with seniors started. First with one, than with another…. There were concerns on both sides, whether this would work. But the risk was worth it. The senior volunteers became full-fledged Machers. Without any special treatment – they do not want it at all! They do everything without complaining, with the hands always ready to work with a smile on the face.

I remember a moment in the Tempel synagogue, when our senior volunteer – knowing just a few words in English – talked with a volunteer from Australia. They did not need a common language to understand each other. At some point we all stopped seeing the differences between us and the age stopped to matter at all. 

Thus intergenerational being together is the most important thing here. Taking from each other and giving to each other. There is always curiosity what the other side would say, as neither is convinced that they are absolutely right. One thing is certain: we learn from each other. And we do it for much longer than only 10 days per year!

Volunteers talk

Magdalena Pietrzykowska

The Machers is one of the best adventures that happened in my life! And now as I write these words, I smile (or rather: I laugh) at the memories full of fantastic people – the volunteers giving a whole lot of joyful, youthful energy, sharing their professionalism and organizational experience with each other, willing to help anybody at any moment. This is a great team in every possible respect!

Here, in Kazimierz, during the 29th Jewish Culture Festival, the entire world was within the reach of my hand! The volunteer service gave me a unique chance to take part in the lectures, workshops and fantastic concerts. I met so many interesting people, full of passion and saw many great artists. I had the opportunity to exchange a few words with them or at least a few smiles… Priceless!


After the Festival I started to make plans for 2020: volunteer service at the 30th JCF, then in Szczebrzeszyn, at Conrad Festival… yet then the plans had to be postponed to another year … But there is one thing that I know: in 2021 I will be a VOLUNTEER!!!

The Festival gave me faith that I can act, that nothing would stop me from living the way I want to.

Was I afraid of anything at the beginning? YES! I was afraid: isn’t it too late for taking such a challenge? (I ask myself: why didn’t I come across the volunteerism notice earlier? But better late than too late! Many thanks, Workshops for Seniors!); will my health condition allow me for such a marathon? Will I be able to bring “this all” together?

But I made it. Thanks to the Machers. 

Jan Dybek

What am I really like??? Nobody knows what I am really like! As the twig is bent, so grows the tree – my Mum would say when I was a child – perhaps this was to encourage me to learn everything that could be useful in life.

That is why, apart from my (own) profession of an engineer, I also learned to sing, dance, take photographs, fly a glider, sail, etc. Somewhere, “underneath my skin”, I always had the disposition to share my passions, which – for a long time – has been reflected in my public service or social activity.

Now, when the old age is already breathing down my back, I lead the life of a hermit. But in spite of this – I have not given up my dreams and simple ideas. And thus:

My pre-retirement dreams led to the creation of Workshop for Seniors in Wołowice. The song texts I dreamed of – already in the hermit’s period of my life – written for my granddaughter and for myself as well as the texts of the family genealogy stories are the effects of my long walks along the bank of the Vistula river.

In order to vanquish my boredom almost completely, I invented the cultivation of crops for future delicious meals in the house garden, “general” refurbishments, and one-day or longer trips, with the observance of the DDM principle (disinfection, distance, masks). The entire prose of life is realized after the set of morning exercises with an obligatory dancing session with a virtual partner.

… and so day by day and night by night I try hard to follow Anna German’s (Polish singer) advice: Smile at every moment – do not wait for the lucky day….

Maria Rozkwitalska

I am a Krakowian by choice. At some point, I chose Krakow as the place to live. As a new retiree, I found here a lot of possibilities to pursue my activities: swimming pool, Nordic walking, exercise, workshops, courses, volunteerism, and larger ones – Saga, Dojrzałe Kino [Mature Cinema), JCF and Workshops for Seniors (of course not all of them at the same time).

Everyday I read a lot, trying to follow cultural events and get to know the city. I like my apartment where I enjoy cooking and baking. I am open to cuisine experiments. I also had a sweet episode in Cheder.

I try to get to know the world, being proud to have seen some places. My grandchildren are also my great passion, as they give me joy and challenge.

I found Workshops for Seniors and the JCF when looking through offers for seniors. I met a group of enthusiasts there – and what is important – this was an intergenerational group. And so I stayed with them. The Festival is a celebration and so are all the activities in Cheder which I participate in or which I co-organize.

I am most moved by the possibility of having contact with active people, who are curious of the world around, in particular with young people full of joy, enthusiasm and openness. I look forward to the next Festival edition with hope.

Bożena Romantowska

I have a great pleasure to inform you that you are invited to the team of the Machers of the 29th Jewish Culture Festival. I believe that this is going to be a great time and experience – both for you and for us …

Honestly? I did not believe it! I rather expected a refusal: perhaps in the coming year and so on. And this is such a great surprise!

For some time already I have been interested in broadly understood Jewish history and culture. Also I like travels. I am a travel guide and in my visiting plans I always include the Judaica in a given region. I am not a specialist in the subject, though; but you learn through you entire life, don’t you?

I knew the JCF like many other festivals from the point of view of an audience. I knew of course that its Director is the magnificent Janusz Makuch.

I also knew that volunteers work at the organization of the Festival. I read (obviously – by incident and less obviously – on Facebook), that there was recruitment for the volunteers for the 29th Jewish Culture Festival. And (again: obviously by incident) exceptionally I had a few free days free at the beginning of the summer holidays :)

I sent my application, than there was the interview… no, I am not a young student, I am not young at all. My English is not very well.

The interview was carried out by two amazing girls: Edyta and Ola. And the effect was this wonderful e-mail!

What did being Macher give me? Work with fantastic people. I realized that Edytka knew perfectly well (how does she do it???), where I would prove myself, and thus she perfectly matched the tasks for me: workshops and other events. The greatest experience for me was to be assigned to the Shalom on Szeroka concert. Work at the scene and the “Mała Orkiestra Dancingowa” which I looked after! I could go on writing here, but… I will refer to an e-mail again:

Yes, this was a great time and experience. I do hope that someday I will get the message again: you are invited to the team of the Machers!

photos: Edyta Dufaj, Michał Ramus, The Machers

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