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.
Jadwiga Szymańska née Kiermarz Mother
born 1906 – died 1996
Władysław Szymański Father
born 1892 – died 1972
May 2011, Zuzanna Benesz/translation: Beata Murzyn
Before World War II, the Szymański family lived in Warsaw in the district of Żoliborz. Władysław Szymański was an officer in the Polish Army in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and an employee of General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces. In 1935, he retired and accepted the position of technical director in the “Jan Serkowski and Co.” factory located on Nowolipie Street. In October 1940, the premises of the factory were incorporated into the Warsaw ghetto. There were two factors that were crucial in the family’s decision to help Jews: the location of the factory and the contacts that Władysław maintained with the Home Army headquarters, where he had served in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Ewa Zelkowitz was a friend of the relatives of the Szymański family from Częstochowa. In 1942, she was deported to the Warsaw ghetto. Władysław procured for her the “Aryan” papers for the name of Bronisława Morezak. Due to her so called proper appearance (i.e. she did not look like a person of Jewish origin), she was initially employed by the Szymański family as a babysitter of the children Bogdan and his sister. Later, she hid in Wola district, visiting the Szymańskis from time to time.
Lucyna was another person whom Władysław helped to escape from the ghetto. However, the family never learnt about her surname. Because of the woman’s dark complexion, the Szymańskis informed their neighbors that she was the family’s friend of Georgian origin. Officially, she was their house maid.
The Szymański family also rescued well-known translator and theater journalist Jacek Frühling. He stayed with them for only some time – due to his characteristic Semitic features he had to frequently change his domicile. The Szymańskis gave him temporary shelter and provided him with food and clothes. The family also helped many other Jews. In his interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Bogdan Szymański recalls: “I don't remember those people's names; I merely recollect their faces, handshakes, pats on the back, countenances lit up with gratitude and joy. This was the greatest reward.”
The family lost contact with some of the survivals as early as in wartime. Lucyna went missing in the first days of the Warsaw Uprising – the Szymańskis never learnt about her whereabouts. They also lost contact with Jacek Frühling. On the day when the Warsaw Uprising broke out, Ewa Zelkowitz was staying with the Rescuers’ family. Later, they were all deported to the transfer camp in Pruszków, where they got separated. Under the name of Bronisława Morezak, Ewa was sent to a forced labor camp in Germany. When the war ended, together with Jadwiga Szymańska’s brother and his wife she departed for Belgium, from where she emigrated to the United States. She corresponded with the Szymańskis and hosted them a few times.