MY TWO MOTHERS - Elżbieta Ficowska

I belong to the youngest generation of survivors. I was one of those who was born only to die, one of those from whom the right to live was taken away in earliest infancy. I am here today, so many years later, through an act of love. It was a goodness that knew no fear, a goodness that dared to be itself at a time when evil was triumphant and bestiality went unpunished.

Every one of us who was spared — so few among the countless masses of the murdered — owes his or her life to someone else’s help, to someone else’s self — sacrifice, to an active refusal to countenance the death of innocents to which we were condemned.

I did not know then, I could not know, how much self-denial, how much heroism, was needed just to provide a roof over my head. I did not know then, but I have since learned, that there are two ways to extend a hand: one is as a fist and the other as an open palm offering help. My mothers chose the second way, my Jewish mother, who gave me life, and my Polish mother, who saved that life.

Both accomplished something that went beyond ordinary humanity. To save me in the nightmarish days of July 1942 my Jewish mother endured the pain of giving up her only child to Żegota, a Polish organization that provided help to dying Jews. Through this organization I was placed in less threatening hands, hands that at first had seemed alien but did not turn out so. My Polish mother fulfilled the deepest desires of my Jewish mother. She conquered her own fear to save me, showering great love on me to take the place of the one who brought me into the world and who was soon to leave it.

Although I was too small to remember her clearly, I will never forget my Jewish mother. I cannot even recognize her face in a photograph, but l see her in my dreams. Both my dead mothers are with me and will remain with me to the end. Their presence reminds me that there is nothing more destructive than hatred and nothing more blessed than human goodness. As far as my limited strength allows, I have tried to be faithful to this truth, never accepting enmity between people and nations, never acquiescing in that contempt that sometimes is manifested through clenched lists.

This is what both my mothers taught me: my Jewish and Polish mothers. It is this deep faith, this mission, which I feel bold enough to pass on to the compatriots of both my life-giving mothers.

Elżbieta Ficowska during the Holocaust as an infant has been saved from the Warsaw Ghetto by Irena Sendler. For many years she was a chairman of the Association of “Children of Holocaust” in Poland.

From the Album “Recalling Forgotten History For Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust”, Warszawa 2007