Finalists of 2023 POLIN Award: Bożena Gajewska, Kutno

Bożena Gajewska stoi wśród różowych kwiatów.
Bożena Gajewska. fot. M. Starowieyska / Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich

Regionalist, animator of culture, Social Guardian of Monuments, and social activist of the Society of Friends of the Kutno Region. In 2021, she joined the group of Leaders of Dialogue, part of the Forum for Dialogue network. For many years, she has been actively working to protect the cultural heritage of the Kutno region.

One of the most important areas of her social activity is the restoration of memory and the protection of Jewish heritage in Kutno and the Kutno region. Bożena conducts queries in archives, searches for documents and iconographic materials, and writes articles for Kutno’s "Zeszyty Regionalne" [Regional Notebooks] about the history of the Jewish community in this area.

She is the author and coordinator of several projects aimed at restoring the memory of Kutno Jews among the current residents of Kutno, both mature individuals and students from Kutno schools. She secures financial resources for her projects by entering grant competitions. Within these projects, she organizes educational activities, workshops, performances, concerts, exhibitions, meetings, and campaigns of planting daffodils and crocuses. Bożena also organizes commemorations and free trips for youth to the former German extermination camp Kulmhof in Chełmno on the Ner River. She coordinated the visit of POLIN "Museum on Wheels" in Kutno in 2016. She is the author of three temporary educational exhibitions about the Jewish community in Kutno, Krośniewice, and Żychlin. Over the years, several thousand young and older residents of Kutno, Żychlin, and Krośniewice have participated in her projects.

Bożena Gajewska collaborates with the descendants of Jews from Kutno and Żychlin—the Association of Descendants of Jews from Central Poland, together with Marysia Galbraith and Leon Zamość, as well as the Jewish Kutno Group with Yosef Kutner. Together with the descendants, she runs various activities aimed at uncovering the microhistory of individual Jewish people and families living in Kutno, Żychlin, and the vicinity. Alongside Yosef Kutner, she works towards the restoration of the Jewish cemetery in Kutno. In 2024, her fourth successful project in the Łódź Voivodship Civic Budget will be implemented, titled "Zakhor Means Remember."