Marcel Zielenski was born in Krakow in September 1934, into a thriving Jewish community. However by 1941 he was moved with his family into the Ghetto where he spent the next few years followed by the Plaszow concentration camp, built on hallowed grounds of what was once a Jewish cemetery. In October 1944, he was sent together with his father to Auschwitz, where he was imprisoned until the Russian liberation on January 27th 1945. His father did not survive the war, and was last seen leaving Auschwitz on a death march heading west. A few days after liberation, Marcel, along with a group of boys, walked out of Auschwitz and made their way by foot to Krakow in search of his family. He was finally reunited with his mother in August 1945, his only surviving immediate family member.

For the last four years, Marcel has made that same journey out of Auschwitz not by foot but by bicycle, to a new Jewish Community Centre, which continues to grow, rebuilding a vibrant Jewish life in Krakow. He rides this journey, not in search for his family, but side by side with his son Betzalel and two granddaughters, meeting his wife Maryla a survivor herself, at the finish line at the JCC. Marcel’s story is a story of victory and the celebration of life. We look forward to having him hopefully join us for a fifth time in 2019.

To learn more about Marcel’s story, click here to read a Newsweek article about him and the Ride.



We started out from a terrible place under an angry sky. We rode as strangers, as friends, and as families. We climbed, we sweated, we fell, and we flew. We thought about those who never left that terrible place. And in the end, we arrived. Together, under a blue sky, strangers no more, having made a journey that took us farther than the miles we rode. Welcomed into a place that has become for many a home. Close to that terrible place but at the same time far, far away.

  • Jonathan Ornstein, JCC Krakow Executive Director

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This was a symbolic ride, reaffirming the Jewish people's unmistakable will to survive and thrive. The experience moved me beyond what I could have ever expected, and seeing the hundreds of Poles applauding and cheering upon entering the courtyard of the JCC at the end of a hard and rigorous ride brought me to tears, tears of joy, of hope, of connection, and promise.

  • Marc, 2015 & 2018 RFTL Participant


RFTL was a perfect way to experience the lows and highs of Jewish history in Poland. Touring Auschwitz, where my father was imprisoned for 2 and a half years, was sobering and overwhelming. Being able to ride a bicycle away from the gates of Birkenau, towards renewed Jewish life at the Krakow JCC was inspiring and fun. Very worthwhile!

  • Marsha, 2018 RFTL Participant