The Gąsiorowski Family

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“If there is enough bread for us, there will be enough for her” - the story of the Gąsiorowski family.

During the German occupation, Lucjan and Anna Gąsiorowska, from the village of Nuna near Nasielsk, helped twelve-year-old Doba Drezner from Serock, an escapee from the ghettos in Warsaw and Legionowo.

In 1944, the girl settled in the Gąsiorowski farm and remained there until the end of the War. During the preceding two years, she wandered from village to village near her native Serock, looking for a safe haven during the Holocaust. 

Many years after the  War, Diana Albert (Doba Drezner)wrote, “Dear Mr Stanisław Gąsiorowski, You certainly do not remember me. In 1943, your father and mother accepted me as a housekeeper. […] I know many people who were also sheltered by Poles during the War. I think that your father, Lucjan Gąsiorowski, knew that I was a Jew, but he never talked about it”.

The Drezner family from Serock

Doba Drezner was the daughter of Dawid, a blacksmith and Hebrew teacher of Hebrew, and Jenta, the owner of a small clothing store in Serock.

In December 1939, when the Germans began deporting Jews from Serock which had been incorporated into the Third Reich, Doba, her parents and her brother Alter hid at the Jewish cemetery and then fled to Legionowo, where Dawid’s sister lived. Shortly after, Jenta Drezner fell ill with tuberculosis and died.

Doba spent some time with her aunt Sara Rywka Klajman in the Warsaw ghetto. When, in July 1942, the Germans began the "great ghetto liquidation operation", the Klajman family sent the girl to her father in Legionowo. A few weeks later, after Alter’s death and just before the liquidation of the Legionowo ghetto in October 1942, Dawid Drezner decided to save his daughter by getting her  to the "Aryan side". 

For two years, the young adolescent wandered among the villages near her hometown of Serock. She maintained that she was an orphan and that her name was “Danuta Sokołowska”. She often changed her locations. She met different people – some helped her, others took advantage of her, took money and beat her

In the second half of 1944, Doba reached Nuna – a village ten kilometres south-east of Nasielsk. She found shelter on the farm of the Gąsiorowski family.

Help for Doba Drezner - the Gąsiorowski family from the village of Nuna near Nasielsk

Lucjan Gąsiorowski and his wife Anna were farmers. They had four sons - Czesław, Wojciech, Eustachiusz (also known as Stasiek) and Jan. Their fifth son died in an accident. Although the family was not wealthy, they decided to help Doba.

This is how Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski remembered the first encounter: 

“It was around lunchtime, maybe 2pm, maybe 3pm. Danusia came from the road. She said she was looking for a night’s lodging and that nobody wanted to provide it. My mother was not very keen, but father said, 'If there is enough bread for us, there will be enough for her'”.

For the following months, Doba lived with the Gąsiorowski family. She was called “Danusia”. She had the "good appearance" and the farm was off the beaten track, so she did not have to hide. Nevertheless, the Gąsiorowski family, fearing severe punishment for helping Jews in occupied Poland, even the death penalty, kept the knowledge of her origin strictly secret, not even letting their own children know about it.

The girl worked on the farm, fed the animals and looked after the youngest son, Jan. She was already acquainted with the practices of the Christian religion and, together with the Gąsiorowski family, participated in services in the Nasielsk church. From time to time, Lucjan joked that, in the future, he would marry Danusia to his son, Czesław. She had the best relations with Eustachiusz.

Despite the parental care shown by the Gąsiorowski family, the girl was tormented by the traumatic experiences of the previous few months. In dreams, her brother Alter would come to her. She felt lonely, weakened and had no appetite. 

The end of the war and emigration to the United States

In September 1944, Red Army soldiers reached the Narew river and, in October, fought in the Serock area. Nuna found itself on the front. Until January 1945, the inhabitants of the village lived under constant threat. Doba and others were forced to work on building German fortifications. When, in January, bombs began falling on Nuna, the girl, together with the Gąsiorowski family, hid in the potato cellar for two days.

In 1946, Doba left the Gąsiorowski family without saying goodbye. It was not an easy decision for the fourteen-year-old girl. “She considered fleeing, but the thought of becoming Jewish again terrified her”, wrote her daughter Helen Albert, years later.

Doba went to Legionowo. She did not find her father - almost all the local Jews had perished in the Holocaust. After a short stay in Warsaw, she was sent to a Jewish orphanage in Otwock, then to Częstochowa and, in 1948, to Kraków.

In that same year, a family from New York tracked down Doba. In early 1949, after a two-week voyage across the Atlantic, Doba reached the United States.

Doba Drezner’s (Diana Albert) Post-War Fate

Contact with the Gąsiorowski family was cut off. The girl’s adoptive parents were saddened by her departure, while Doba tried to cope with the traumatic experiences.

“After the War, I was able to talk about my past, but the staff of the orphanage encouraged the children to forget about our suffering and to think about a better tomorrow.

"In the US, when I tried to talk to my uncle, who lost his first wife and four children, he and my aunt used to say, 'Don’t think about the past, time will heal everything'”, Doba recalled.

In the United States, Doba changed her name to Diana. In 1954, she married Oscar (originally Szyja) Albert. Her husband, a former prisoner of the forced labour camps in Budzyń and Płaszów and the concentration camp in Flossenbürg, did not want to think back to Poland and reminisce about the times of the Holocaust

“Dear Mr Stanisław Gąsiorowski, You certainly do not remember me. In 1943, your father and mother accepted me as a housekeeper. […] I remember you well. You were about two years younger than me. At that time, my name was Danka Sokołowska. Now my name is Diana Albert, I have a husband, three children and I live in New York. […] I know many people who were also sheltered by Poles during the war. I think that your father Lucjan Gąsiorowski knew that I was a Jew, but he never talked about it”.

The letter was never sent, Diana did not know the recipient’s address.

Returning to Poland - Meeting the Gąsiorowski family

Many years later, Diana’s granddaughter, Hannah Champness, on the occasion of her bat mitzvah, decided to raise funds for the construction of a monument at the Jewish cemetery in Serock. It was also an impulse to resume the search for Gąsiorowski family.

Thanks to the help from the staff of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Andrzej Królak, the mayor of the village of Nuna, the search for Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski – the last living member of the family – proved successful.

In August 2014, Diana Albert, together with her daughter Helen, son David and granddaughter Hannah, came to Nuna. During a party hosted by Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski, Hannah said:

“Thank you for what your family has done. I and all of us owe you our lives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are our guardian angels.

Diana and Eustachiusz talked to each other for a long time, and then -  just as seventy years earlier, they fed the geese and chickens together.

On 19th April 2015, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem posthumously honoured Lucjan and Anna Gąsiorowski with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The awarded medal and honorary diploma were collected by Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski and his daughter Mariola Wyszyńska during a ceremony at the POLIN Museum on 26th February 2020.

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