Shtetles tour with Dr. Tomasz Wisniewski in Bialystok
Tomek was a wonderful guide. He was genuinely interested in the history, had a great knowledge which he enjoyed sharing, was very personable and overall made our visit one to remember. The Hotel was also very nice and well situated by the main square. The breakfasts that came with the room were exceptional. Tomek was able to find some registers with potential family connections as well as the correct names that were not translated correctly by my relatives. He took us to his home to show us some of his research and file he made. In addition, he was flexible with the schedule and we ended up a Treblinka which was a meaningful visit. Overall, he was terrific and I would certainly recommend him to any of your clients. Thanks for making the arrangements.
Jim T.. USA
I have the pleasure of writing a recommendation for Tomek as an exceptional tour guide & producer of short documentaries about people & places. We were fortunate to be guided by Tomek in the city of Bialystok, Poland, on our visit there. Following our visit, we received a short film from him. The explanations during the tour & the film were both of the highest standard. We were most impressed from Tomek's charming personality, from his deep & thorough knowledge of the Jewish history & related issues. Tomek enabled our visit to be memorable. I have no doubt others will benefit from his guiding.
Formerly Senior Executive in the Ministry of Tourism, Israel
Licensed tour guide, urrently guide in Yad Vashem Museum of Holocaust, Jerusalem.
I can highly recommend Mr Wisniewski as a passionate and well-informed guide based on our experience with him in October 2017. My husband and I spent a very full day touring with him in Bialystok and the surrounding area. Prior to our arrival he communicated by email in order to research my family (who had lived there until the 1940s) and find any relevant material and sites. In addition to Bialystok itself we visited Treblinka and Tykocin. Mr Wisniewski was very friendly, knowledgeable, spoke good English and was able and willing to answer many questions , including some that may have been difficult or challenging.
I recommend him to you and your customers.
We used Tomasz Wisniewski’s services for 3 amazing days in June 2016 touring around the Bialystok area in Poland where my family originated from. Tomek’s deep knowledge, dynamic and passionate enthusiasm, pleasant manner, quirky sense of humour and unrivalled organisational skills made this special tour a delight. He put real meaning into our tour and having been to this area on a prior trip 5 years before, my husband and I felt that he really gave us the whole package, including some great dining options as well. He organised a mini bus and very friendly driver for our family which included my husband, my mum, 3 Israeli cousins and one from the US. We would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone interested in touring throughout Poland.
Robyn Baume, Peter Vodicka and Marlene Epstein of Sydney, Australia
Diane, Alan and Devorah Greenberg of Jerusalem, Israel
Laurence Peters of Rockville, Maryland, USA
I had the privilege of being guided in Treblinka, Tickochin and Bialystok by the history and Media expert, Mr. Tomek Wishniewski . I was impressed by Mr. Wishniewski’s expanded knowledge of Polish Jewish history, culture and folklore. He took my family and me in his car to all the important Jewish sites within Bialystok and in Bialystok area. His explanations were informative and accurate and with his excellent help, we could almost visualized Bialystok as it was when our mother and her family lived there before world war II. Tomek Wishniewski has written a book about the Jewish history of Bialystok and Poland Jewery and he has in his possession enormous collection of photos, maps, postcards, and other materials that he uses for his work as a guide. I can whole heartedly recommend Mr. Wishniewski as a guide for tourists who are interested in Bialystok in particular and in Polish Jewery in General.
Anat Pearluter-Shabo, Jerusalem, Israel
To whom it may concern
My husband and I spent two full days with Tomek during our stay in Bialystok in October, 2017. My husband is working on restoring his family’s cemetery in Trcianne. Tomek expertly found the lot on which Bill’s great grandfather’s home was built. Helped us locate tombstones in the cemetery and introduced us to the town’s historian and the mayor, key players who can help us with our project. Not only is Tomek an expert on Jewish cemeteries, he has written: The Lost World of Small-Town Jewish Cemeteries, but Tomek is a wonderful tour guide. Tomek is fluent in English and knows the history and heritage of Bialystok and its neighboring towns. Another bonus is his very comfortable car and his skilled driving. We plan to return to Poland and will call upon Tomek to be our tour guide in the near future. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.
Tomas, as my family called him, took my wife and I, 2 sons and a wife, and 2 granddaughters on a search for my father’s birthplace and the cemeteries where our grandparents would have been buried. Having authored books on the Jews of Bialystok, the Cemeteries and the Synagogues, his knowledge is extremely broad. He was patient with our questions and was able to expand his answers to more fully detail his explanations. His demeanor was enthusiastic with a good sense of humor. My family thoroughly enjoyed the 2 days we spent with Tomas.
Nathaniel S. Lepp,
First a bit of background. I am trying to get my ancestral family cemetery in Trzcianne restored. As with many Jewish cemeteries, it is currently neglected, unmarked, and there are few if any signs that this was an active and important cemetery until destroyed by the Nazis 80 years ago. Based on a visit last year, my wife and I deemed this a viable project and certainly something that could be accomplished if we successfully navigated the bureaucracy. In looking for a tour guide/driver to take us to Trzcianne as well as a few other nearby cemeteries, Knyszyn and Goniadz, which had been partly restored, Tomek’s name came up a few places. I had run across his name on the Bagnowka cemetery website and asked if I could meet him to hear about his project. Also, the Taube Foundation here in Berkeley, California, a major player in Poland’s Jewish community support, recommended him as a possibility.
After making initial contact, he was proactive in providing details about our visit and also family history. In setting up our itinerary, he was very careful in listening to what we proposed and suggesting additional things to do. He picked us up promptly and immediately began giving us a detailed local history both of Trzcianne and Bialystok. Before we even arrived in Trzcianne, he made arrangements for us to meet with city officials in the mayor’s office and also the town historian. He invited us into his home to do some follow-up research on the web and his personal library. The town historian, who we spent several hours with, was familiar with Tomek and his work. They also both jointly made many suggestions for how best to proceed with the restoration.
Working with Tomek was more than just spending a couple of days with a tour guide. He is a historian, has experience doing hands-on cemetery restoration, can read and understand basic Hebrew, and is a great facilitator. His driving and English skills are exceptional. It took me some time to figure out that our guide was the author of several books and websites that we had run across before we met him. He graciously accommodated our need for meals and bathroom breaks and handled our personal idiosyncrasies flawlessly. It was a privilege to be his guests and learn from him.
Thus, he has our highest possible recommendations as a tour guide.
William N. Brostoff, PhD
I met Tomek a few years ago when I traveled with my wife to Bialystok to spend time where my maternal grandmother Erena had grown up. Although Erena left Poland for London around 1920, her entire large family remained in Bialystok, where tragically they were to lose their lives during the Holocaust years. My trip to Poland was my first, and I wanted to honour my Bialystoker family roots. Tomek met us in Malkinia train station and we spent time in Treblinka and he then drove us to Bialystok. Over the next few days Tomek was so helpful with advice, information and showed us some of the important Jewish sites of Bialystok and surrounding villages such as Tykosin. Tomek is a dear friend and is truly a wonderful guide...he is both knowledgeable and passionate in understanding the contribution of Jewish history to Poland and especially the Bialystok region.
I would like to provide a reference for Tomek based upon a trip I undertook to Bialystok with my daughter in 2012 to visit my father's home town.
I was put in contact with Tomek by an academic at the Jagiellonian University and he kindly offered to show us around Bialystok. It was immediately obvious that he had a very strong academic background in cultural history and was very knowledgeable about the Jewish history of Bialystok and the region. In fact I would say uniquely knowledgeable as he has published detailed books on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in the Bialystok region. In addition to his knowledge of the Jewish history of the area it was also apparent how committed he is to collecting and making accessible films, photographs and documents that recorded the vanished Jewish presence. He has himself made a large number of videos including one he made with me after he had shown us around.
This video is on YouTube ,
He has also constructed a very impressive website which I believe is an invaluable resource.
My daughter and I found Tomek to be extremely personable and I have retained contact with him over the past five years as have a number of other people who met him in Bialystok. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Tomek as a guide (and much more) for anyone making a trip to Poland, especially with an interest in Jewish history. He is certainly one of the most knowledgeable and interesting people one could possibly meet on such a journey. I understand Tomek is interested in expanding his video collection and if anyone researches their own family history and wishes to have this recorded in a video, it would be a wonderfully rich bonus. Certainly it is something I very much treasure and am extremely grateful to Tomek for making it happen.
Dr. Phillip Lipton
I am happy to write a letter describing my excellent trip from Warsaw, to Kosow Lacki, Bialystok, and back, with Tomek Wisniewski as our guide. We had a group of 5 cousins (including one 89 year old who was born in Kosow Lacki). He picked us up in Warsaw as promised, drove us to Kosow Lacki where he had arranged for us to meet with the mayor and staff in the town hall, where we were able to examine Jewish vital records and find out ancestors' birth records. He offered us stops to other places of Jewish interest on the way to Bialystok (including Treblinka), and on the way back the next day, that we were not expecting that were extra benefits to our trip. Tomek was a thoughtful and knowledgeable tour guide and I would recommend him to anyone wanting to do something similar.
I write you on behalf of Tomek Wisniewski, with whom I have worked closely for the past six years as the guide for my group on our travels in Podlasie. Tomek has served as an outstanding guide for the many groups that I have brought to Poland in a way that is simply beyond compare. As the director of the United States’ largest Yiddish cultural organization that deals with making connections between North America and Central and Eastern Europe, I have found that there is no one as skilled or knowledgable in the Jewish cultural history of the regions we travel as Tomek.
My groups consist of students, scholars, artists (http://yiddishkayt.org/helix-project/) as well as general tourists (http://yiddishkayt.org/yiddishkayt-expedition/lithuania-2015/) and all have gained so much from our experiences with Tomek. He has led incredible walking tours of the city of Bialystok and its surroundings, as well as in depth cultural history tours of smaller towns such as Gródek, Krynki, and more. In addition to his amazing breadth of knowledge about multicultural Poland, Tomek conveys a sense of warmth and humor even in the face of the most challenging aspects of human history. While he is often self-deprecating about his language skills, his spoken English is impeccable: filled with nuance and deep understanding. His personal passion for the subjects he has researched is not only impressive, but truly infectious.
Furthermore, the combination of Tomek’s skill as a guide is amplified by his skill as a filmmaker. His ability to tap into the complexities of local history and share them creatively has enriched his ability as a guide so much. The combination of viewing Tomek’s short films and in-person engagement with the places we travel adds a multidimensional richness to his tours that I have seen with no other guide anywhere — and I have worked with countless guides throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
In addition to my praise of Tomek’s work as a guide, I also wish to note that in a post-tour survey of a small group tour in 2015, Tomek received — unanimously — the highest possible rating. I include a few responses from the 2015 survey, who added additional comments about Tomek:
"I can't really say enough about Tomek; the depth of his commitment to his projects is truly palpable. Plan to explore more of his work online!"
"Tomek Wisniewski's tour was simply excellent."
"What else can I say? Excellent!”
If you have any questions at all about Tomek Wisniewski’s skill as a guide, please be in touch. Tomek’s guiding has brought Jewish history to life for so many of the members of my group, I strongly recommend him for any tour group with an interest in the centuries of Jewish life in Poland.
Dr. Rob Adler Peckerar,
Executive director Yiddishkayt
Los Angeles, CA
I am writing to express my support for Tomek Wisniewski. He acted as a tour guide for me and two other people in Bialystock about twenty years ago, when he was already an excellent guide. He is very intelligent, very knowledgeable, very reliable and very caring. Tomek is also an excellent film maker and researcher. Altogether, he someone who deserves the best reference I can give him. I recommend him to you without reservation and with great enthusiasm.
Publisher and writer