“My entire life is based on a foundation of gratitude”. Ceremonies held in Kraków and Biecz

Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 1st July 2018
On 29th June, during the 28th Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow, a ceremony took place, at the Galicia Jewish Museum, posthumously honouring Righteous Among the Nations – Maria Strusińska, Alicja Gołąb, her brother-in-law Jan Gołąb, his wife Eugenia, son Stanisław and wife Maria, Marian Sagan and parents Stanisław and Marianna, Janina and Jan Trzeciak, Teofil and Klara Zroski. Medals and certificates were accepted by relatives of those honoured. Also present were Holocaust survivors. The Polish government was respresented by chairman of the Poland-Israel Parliamentary Group and Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski. A similar ceremony took place a day before in Biecz.

During the ceremony, Israeli Ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, said:

Each day and each year, we must fight for tolerance towards others. This is a long process. Education aganst racism, xeonphobia and antisemitism shoould be our common path. In this way, we model ourselves on the Righteous Among the Nations. This is the second such ceremony held this week. The first took place yesterday in Biecz, taking place after the amondment to legislation regarding the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN – ed.). I am very pleased that this amendment was introduced the day before yesterday.

The amendment to the IPN was passed by the Sejm on June 27th, repealing changes which were introduced in February which allowed for penal provisions for accusing Poles of crimes committed by the Third Reich. A statement was co-signed by the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel. They also signed a statement condemning all forms of antisemitism and anti-Polonism, which was also referred to by Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski in his speech.

The host of the event, Galicia Jewish Museum Director Jakub Nowakowski, pointed out that presenting Righteous Among the Nations medals and certificate during the Jewish Cultural Festival had now become a tradition, the first such ceremony having taken place in 2005. He added that, since that time, more than one hundred people had been so honoured.

During the ceremony held on 29th June 2018, another thirteen individuals were posthumously honouored with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

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During World War II, the Gołąb family extended help to seven-year-old Gustawa Singer (born 1935), today known a Janet Appelfield. After two years of wandering with her father Adolf, in April 1942, she was given over to the care of Maria Strusińska from Proszowice. After her sister-in-law threatened to denounce her to the Gestapo, she soon passed the girl to her cousin, Lala Singer, hiding using false papers in the name of “Halina Walkowska”, Gustawa's new carer arranged a birth certificate for her under the name of “Krystyna Antoszkiewicz”.

When a round-up was taking place during their stay in Kraków, the little girl was temporarily placed inside a church. However, Halina never returned to collect her. Looking for help, Gustawa went out onto the street, where passing women took her to their home. They then passed her onto a friend, Alicja Gołąb (née Kurek). She maintained contacts with the underground. Later that same day, she handed to girl over to her brother-in-law, Jan Gołąb from Bronowice who, with his wife Eugenia (née Myślińska), son Stanisław and daughter-in-law Maria, ran a farm belonging to the church. Gustawa hid with the Gołąb family until the end of the War. One time, her cousin, Oskar Singer, came to collect her. He was hiding under the name “Dr Antoni Koziezłowski”. She refused to leave with him. He came again after the War in order to hand her over to the Kraków Jewish Community Committee. A few months later, her father, who had also survived, came to the Committee. Together, they emigrated from Poland to the USA.

Janet Appelfield's son was present and spoke at the ceremony. In a recorded message, Janet said: “I am moved because, without these people, I would not behere. In schools, I tell children about tolerance and about the courage of this family. They not only saved me, but future generations also. My gratitude wil last long after I am gone”.

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In Proszowice, during World War II, Marian Sagan (1921–1984) and his parents, Stanisław and Marianna, hid Rachela (Ronia) Englard née Cukier (1926–2014). Before the War, the girl lived in Kraków, where her mother ran a clothing and haberdashery store. Her father was a scientist. At the beginning of the War, she, her parents and seven siblings moved into the countryside. The Sagan family helped them when the Proszowice ghetto was being liquidated, an operation which began on 29th August 1942. Twelve-year-old Ronia met Marian Sagan, who brought her home to his parents, where the girl hid until the end of the War.

During the ceremony, Rachela's daughter, Billie Laniado said: “She never forgot about the courage she witnessed. In those terrible times, people were forced to act. But it was not always straightforward. Some would not take the risk. But there were people who behaved with courage and dedication. These acts constitufe an important lesson of humanity, a lesson for the world and for future generations”.

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During World War II, Jan and Janina Trzeciake Podgwizdów (Małopolskie Province). In 1943, the cared for Jerzy Wicha (born 14th February 1936) who, after getting out of the Warsaw ghetto, came under the care of many people. He spent three years in the Trzeciak home.

During the ceremony, Jerzy Wicha said: “That was half the life of a seven-year-old child. They not only saved me, but also raised me. I am pleased that Yad Vashem has recognised the actions of the Trzeciak family and that I am in contact with them”.

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During World War II, Teofil Zroski (1896–1962) and his wife Klara (1898–1982) lived in Chorzów. From March 1943, they hid Lusia Taus (born 19th July 1942 in Będzin). Today, she is known as Lucy Katz. She initially lived with the Didra family and was then moved to the Zroski family by her sister Klara. Their nine-year-old daughter Krystyna helped her parents to care for the child. Lusia lived with the Zroski family until 1947, when her Holocaust-survivor father came to collect her.

In a recorded message to the ceremony, Lucy Katz said: “I am speaking to you, the children of Teofil and Klara Zroski, with immense gratitude for the courage and risk-taking in order to save me, knowing well what was happening in their small town and not taking regard for their own safety”.

THE CEREMONY IN BIECZ

One day earlier, in Biecz, the title of Righteous Among the Nations Jan Benisz, as well as Sister Marcjanna Łączniak and Sister Zofia Liszka of the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Mary who, in Gorlice (Małopolskie Province), helped the Honigwachs family. Also honoured were Władysław and Tekla Kosib, together with their sons Tadeusz and Rudolf who, in Biecz (Małopolskie Province), helped fugitives from the local ghetto – Izaak Goetz, Chana Kurz and her son Szlome, as well as sisters Adela and Rachela Zyskind.

Rudolf Kosiba was present at the ceremony. Also present was Ira (Izaak) Goetz, who was saved by the family and who is now a retired Columbia University lecturer. Following their meeting after so many years, he said: “To me, this medal has immense significance. It has resulted from the goodness of the heart of some people for others”.

Information about the process of awarding, by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, the State of Israel's highest civil honour, the title of Righteous Among the Nations. can ne obatined here: Kryteria Yad Vashem.