When my parents died, they left behind many puzzles. One of the most profound is of the woman who hid them for a year and a half in the cellar of her villa in Grochów, Warsaw.
Janina Święcka née Wojtyńska Mother
born 19 December 1907 – died 30 June 1990
born 1922 – died 1983
August 2010, Alicja Plachówna-Vasilevska
When World War II broke out, the family of Święcki lived in 46 Pustelnicka Street, in the district of Praga, Warsaw. In 1941 engineer Wacław Święcki died of pneumonia. His wife, Janina, who up until that moment had been simply a housewife, took up a job in a crane factory.
In October 1942 a 13-year-old daughter of the Święckis, heard from her teacher: “Basia, four people are living at my place. They are refugees, but I would like... two of them would stay with me, but could you talk to your mother about taking two ladies in?”
Although Janina suspected it was about the rescue of Jews and was afraid of her neighbours, she agreed to rent a room to Sabina Mintzberg and her daughter, Mala. Through the nine months which the escapees spent in Pustelnicka Street, they did not tell the people who sheltered them about their descent. For the Święcki it was obvious, even though they did not show it.
Sabina had the so-called Semitic features and didn’t leave the place at all. Mala, who looked “better,” did the shopping. Additionally, she used to bleach her hair and wear a cross on a chain around her neck in order to avoid suspicion.
However, the fact of sheltering of the two Jewesses did not escape the attention of the neighbours. The women repeatedly received threatening letters: “If you don’t get rid of the Jews, we will.” Mala’s sister, who lived in hiding almost next door, received such a note too. She decided that her whole family should move to Sochaczew.
Sabina and Mala lived through the war. When it ended, they left for Israel.