Helena Czernek & Aleksander Prugar
"Mi Polin" means "From Poland." It's the name that Warsaw-based artists Aleksander Prugar and Helena Czernek gave to its first-of-its-kind-in-Poland studio that produces fine works of Judaica.
But we think the pair should have named their company: "Prugar & Czernek, Private Detectives." The two, both 30 years old, met three years ago at Moishe House, a non-profit international organization that, well, pretty much introduces 20-something Jews to other 20-something Jews. Aleksander studied as a social scientist and journalist; Helena attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and went on to spend a year at the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
They decided they liked each other -- a lot -- but Mi Polin was born one day when Helena, traveling to Kracow, noticed traces of mezuzahs in doorways where Jews once lived. She called Aleksander. "What should we do about these?"
This proved an inspiration for what would become an extraordinary series of historical mezuzahs from abandoned Jewish homes in Poland. Aleksander and Helena took a mold of the indent, or trace, where the mezuzah once was. Then they cast that trace in bronze. On the left side they engraved the address of where the mezuzah was found; on the right, simply, the Hebrew letter "shin."
Since then, Aleksander and Helena have visited 26 cities across Poland, tracking down similar traces and casting them in bronze mezuzahs. They called this series, "Mezuzah from this House."
"When you affix the mezuzah to your doorframe, you fill the emptiness and give it a second life," Aleksander says. "Touching the mezuzah activates a link between past and present. Sitting untouched for many years, these mezuzot can now fulfill their holy function. Again. This realization is about the past -- it brings memory about Pre-War Jewish Poland and is also about life, because remembrance is a proof of life."
Shop the Mi Polin collection here.