Multicultural Purim

Lucja Koch, 9th March 2009
Multicultural Purim

Numerous Righteous among Nations, Jewish veterans, members of the Jewish Social and Cultural Association (TSKŻ), the Jewish community, and 20 inhabitants of some Warsaw retirement homes – almost 120 people in all, gathered in the Warsaw Magat restaurant at noon, March 8th 2009 for a senior citizen Purim meeting.
“It is hard for the elderly to attend evening Purim balls. I thought I would do something calmer, during lunchtime, for the people to meet and talk”- says Etel Szyc, President of the Irena Sendler Foundation who organized the event.The purpose of this event was to popularize the Jewish holiday and culture, which is why guests were both Jews and non-Jews.

Celina i Ryszard Ciszewski came from Lodz. Ryszard’s mother, Janina hid 11 Jews in her house in Stanislawow. Ciszewski, born in 1932, though just a child, brought them food. He bought it in different stores to avoid suspicions. He treshed grains on a bike and with a hand-mill he ground grits for them. Wasn’t the mother afraid he would spill the beans?
“A German held me at gunpoint, he went looking in the yard, he put the gun against my forehead and asked who lived there. Even if someone put a barbed wire here I wouldn’t feel anything I was so numb” said Ciszewski poking himself under the ribs. He didn’t denounce anyone. All of the 11 hidden Jews survived the war. In 1987 Janina Ciszewska received a Yad Vashem medal along with her sons.

Ciszewski made a beautiful silver crown for the party for Klara Szyc who was sitting nearby. Her deceased husband Nuchym Szyc was an umbrella maker in Lublin. He was well known in the city. One day someone brought Sabina Leszczynska to him. Szyc wrote down what she told him: in October 1942 she found a freezing, 7 month-old boy who had a note “under his dress” asking the finders to “christen and raise” the baby and stating the “drinks milks from a spoon”. Leszczynska saved the boy and raised him as her own. Despite her efforts, he was taken to an orphanage in Lodz after the war.
She visited him, sent him money and packages. In 1952 a Warsaw family adopted him and didn’t let Sabina Leszczynska contact the child who called her „mommy”.
Thanks to Szyc’s help she found the boy 40 years later. Not long before her death, in 1991 Yad Vashem awarded her as a “Righteous Among Nations”.

Klara Szyc can tell many war stories, describe many hideouts, talk about people’s greatness and pettiness.
Just like her husband, she is fighting for justice and remembering the Polish Righteous. Purim is a holiday of happiness, an encouragement for having fun. After a ceremonius dinner the guests started dancing. The nearly 90 year-old Jerzy Grynberg was the first one to be on the dancefloor.