New Righteous Honoured at POLIN Museum
To me, for several reasons, our Museum is the most appropriate place for such a ceremony. Firstly, the history to which these honours relate, the history of those dramatic years of German occupation, is an important part of our permanent exhibition. We find ourselves, today, in the centre of where the Warsaw Ghetto once stood, opposite the Ghetto Heroes Monument. There, we remember just such individuals as will be honoured today. I am happy that the stories of people, which have thus far remained unknown to a wider audience, are still being added [...] To a great extent, our Museum is an educational institution. It is important to us that the memory of the history of Polish Jews by passed on from generation to generation.
– Prof. Dariusz Stola, POLIN Museum Director, greeting guests and opening the ceremony.
The ceremony, at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, was organised by the Israeli Embassy. As well as the families of the Righteous and of those rescued, others attending the event included representatives of the Office of the President of Poland, the Sejm, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the United States Embassy, the German Embassy, other institutions and numerous students.
Righteous Among the Nations medals and certificates were awarded posthumously to Marcjanna and Józef Goławski, Franciszek Grabowicz, Józefa Grzegorek, Bolesław Paciorek, Jakub Pyzik, Aniela Sargowicka, Adolfina Stasiewicz, Jadwiga and Marian Stępiński, Janina and Wawrzyniec Wereski, Emma and Ryszard Vogel, as well as to their children Natalia and Jerzy. Honorary Citizenship of the State of Israel was bestowed posthumously on Leon and Jadwiga Bukowiński, honoured as Righteous in 1963.
Below are the brief stories of those honoured, at this ceremony, with the title of Righteous Among the Nation. We will publish their full stories soon on this website.
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1. Józef and Marcjanna Goławski, during World War II, lived in Osiny (Mazowieckie Province) where, from 1943, they hid Estera Borenstein, who had escaped from a transport heading to the Treblinka death camp. During the ceremony, the laudation was read by Esther Mitrani. The medal and certificate were accepted by Kamil Goławski.
2. Franciszek Grabowicz lived in the village of Skaratka (Łódzkie Province). From 1944, together with his family, he gave refuge to Szymon Sigal who, before the War, lived in France and who had jumped from a train travelling from Warsaw to Auschwitz. He remained in the Grabowicz home until the War ended and then returned to Paris. Chava Granit, a relative of Szymon Sigal, said,
Szymon managed to start a new chapter in his life and, thanks to Mr. Grabowicz, his trust in the strength of the human spirit was not destroyed. Dear Wiesława Wojda, Mr Grabowicz's grandaughter and his great-grandchildren, you can be proud of your brave grandfather who rescued a persecuted man, despite putting himself and his family in danger.
The Grabowicz and Sigal families found each other in 2016 thanks to the efforts of the Historical Information Centre team at POLIN Museum. Szymon's relative, Alexandre Sigal, asked the team to help him find the Grabowicz family. Franciszek Grabowicz's medal and certificate were accepted by Wiesława and Natalia Wojda.
3. Józefa Grzegorek lived in Nowa Wieś-Śladów (Mazowieckie Province). From 1942, she hid Jadzia Becker, who had escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto. Faced with the danger of being denounced, Józefa gave the girl to a friend in another village. Until the end of the War, Jadzia lived and worked as a domestic helper with several other families, none of whom knew her reaal identity. After the War ended, she returned to Józefa Grzegorek, from where she was collected by representatives of the Jewish Committee. Józefa Grzegorek's medal and cerificate were accepted by Grzegorz and Izabela Kaczorowski.
4. Bolesław Paciorek of Gniewoszów (Mazowieckie Province) helped the Weinstain family. He hid them in his home and also provided them with false papers. During the ceremony, Prof. Dariusz Stola read a letter from the survivors' daughter, Anita Friedman:
There is a saying in Yiddish that “on this earth, you can find both heaven and hell”. We know what hell looks like. Our families saw it during World War II. But we also know what heaven looks like. We see glimpses of it through people like Bronisław Paciorek. [...] I would like to talk with you Mr. Paciorek. I want to tell you what your efforts mean to us, your efforts to save our family and many other families. […] You were not able to save our bodies, but your efforts saved our souls. When I tell this story to my children, they understand that in the hellish times of the Holocaust, one could also meet good people and that not everyone was bad. The Holocaust broke our hearts, but you restored our faith.
Bolesław Paciorek's medal and certificate were accepted by Elżbieta Tymicka.
5. Jakub Pyzik extended help to Nina Berenstein Zarel, who had found refuge with Maria Szewłowska. The Survivor recalled,
When, during the War, I asked Jakub, why he was helping us, he replied that “injustice is happening and someone need to resist it and help”. Only a man of noble character can give such a reply.
During the ceremony, Jakub Pyzik's medal and certificate were accepted by Izabella and Natalia Grądzki.
6. Aniela Sargowicka lived, together with her family, in the village of Sielec (today Belarus). She was well-known amongst the local Jewish partisans as someone who was ready to help. From the end of 1942 to July 1944, she hid the Warsaw Laundański family in her home. Her sons had dug out a hiding-place in the barn where those in hiding would, in the main, spend each night.
During the ceremony, Aniela Sargowicka's medal and certificate were accepted by Wiesława Dołecka and Anna Coast.
7. Adolfina Stasiewicz was Witold Liliental's carer. He was born in 1939. After the ghetto was established in Warsaw, his mother Stefania refused to move, which was why “Gienia” gave her her papers and had false papers made for herself. At that time, all three moved to Włoch, near Warsaw. Stefania pretended to be her own son's aunt, with Adolfina pretending to be his mother. Neighbours suspected that Witold was a Jewish child. In 1943, they were joined by Witold's cousin Anna (née Gliksman). All four lived together until War's end.
During the ceremony, Witold's daughter, Dorota Liliental, said,
Gienia's grandson and I are like family. We call each other “brother” and “sister”. We grew up together in our early childhood. We lived in the same house, the house where it all happened.
Adolfina's grandson, Juliusz Kostrzewski, who accepted the medal and certificate, added,
From these shared war experiences, from this suffering, from this struggle to survival, something more was born into life.
8. Marian and Jadwiga Stępiński lived in the area of Milanówek and Grodzisk Mazowiecki (Mazowieckie Province). In their home, for two and a half years, they hid Sara Levit, her children and grandmother, providing them with food and building them a hiding-place. At the time, in order to minimalise the chance of being denounced, their children did not go to school.
During the ceremony, Marian and Jadwiga Stępiński's medal and certificate were accepted by Juliusz Stępiński.
9. Ryszard and Emma Vogel, as well as their children Jerzy and Natalia, helped their friend Miriam Halpern (née Holz). In 1943, Jerzy controlled the entry and exit of Polish workers into the “residual” ghetto in Warsaw. He provided Miriam with false papers, thanks to which she was able to leave the ghetto. She spent the next three days living with Ryszard and Emma. At that time, the Gestapo appeared at the apartment, trying to persuade the family to sign up to the “volkslist”. After refusing, they were arrested and sent to Auschwitz as political prisoners. Miriam continued to hide in their apartment. After a certain period, she decided to volunteer for work in the Reich, where she remained until the end of the War.
During the ceremony, the Vogel family's medals and certificates were accepted by Peter Vogel.
10. Wawrzyniec and Janina Wereski lived in Zdzisłowice (Lubelskie Province). From August 1943 until July1944, they hid Miriam Spiegel (nee Szapiro) who, with her mother, had earlier wandered around the nearby forests. After the War, the Wereski couple wanted to adopt Miriam but, after meeting her surviving brother Sam, she left for Palestine. Finally, in 1959, she settled in the United States.
During the ceremony, Warzyniec and Janina Wereski's medal and certificate were accepted by Henryk Wereski and Władysław Banaś.
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Information about the bestowal, by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, of Israel's highest civil honour, the title of Righteous Among the Nations, can be found on our website: Yad Vashem Criteria.