Story of rescue

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"All eyes turned in our direction" - the story of the Damski Family

The Damski family lived in Warsaw. Helena was a housewife, while Józef worked at the State Paper Security Printing Works. They had a son, Stefan.

In 1942, Józef's workmate, Tadeusz Głowacki, confided in him that the daughter of a Jewish friend was living with him. He admitted that he could not keep her for much longer and asked Józef to help him find a new hiding place for her.

After the War, Helena recalled, "My husband asked if I would agree to take her in and, of course, I agreed. Two days later, Tadeusz Głowacki came with my husband and brought the little girl who was to stay with us. At that  time, she would have been twenty months old".

The little girl stayed with the Damski family under the false name of "Eugenia Kowalska" , but in the house they called her "Guga". Stefan played with her and treated her as his own sister.

When questions were asked by neighbours, acquaintances or by participants in the secret classes held in their apartment, the reply was that she was the daughter of their sister who had been sent to a camp. "I had no trouble with the neighbours", recalled Helena. "They either believed what they were told, or they didn't want to interfere in our business."

The little girl's rel name was Estera Wołkowicz. In January 1942, her mother, Bella, had passed her over to the "Aryan side". Tadeusz Głowacki had taken her out of the Warsaw ghetto. After a certain time, Bella also found shelter in the Warsaw suburb of Żoliborz, but could not take her daughter.

One day, Helena took the child to Żoliborz, to her mother. That trip almost ended in tragedy.

"One of the passengers on the tram called out, 'Look, what a beautiful, little Jew!" All eyes turned in our direction. I was terrified as to what might happen to me and the child. I didn't hestitate for a second. With the child, I immediately jumped off the tram. Fortunately, nothin happened to us. With difficulty, we reached Genia's mother. I had pleaded with her, for our sake and for that of the child, that she should not visit us. But a mother remains always a mother. She repeatedly tried to come to us in order to see the child. Later, when she was convinced that we loved Gienia like our own child, she stopped visiting."

Helena supported Bella financially and continued to do so even after her husband had been arrested and sent to a camp, and when she had to support the family on her own.

Because of her "bad appearance", Eugenia almost never left the Damski home. Sometimes, in the evenings, Helena would take her out for a short stroll. Despite the difficult financial circumstances and the risk of being denounced, the little girl remained in the Damski home until the end of occupation. Helena also helped the Rozenberg family - her former neighbours, a five-member Jewish family, imprisoned in the ghetto.

Bella Wołkowicz survived the War and, after a certain time, came to collect her daughter. Helena recalls that difficult moment, "We loved her very much. If, G-d forbid, her mother had not returned, we would never have given her to anyone else. But, thankfully, her mother returned. She didn't recognise her at all. She didn't allow herself to be touched. [...] When her mother finally took her, I went with them when they caught a bus to Łódż. The little girl reached out her hand and yelled, 'Auntie, don't give me away!'"

Bella and Estera left for Łódż and, in 1950, emigrated to Israel. While in Poland, they maintained contact with the Damski family. After leaving the country, there was a break of a few years in correspondence. In 1966, Helena visited them in Israel.

On 30th January 1979, Helena and Józef Damski were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nation.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Bartoszewski Władysław, Lewinówna Zofia, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Warszawa 2007
    This publication consists of 3 parts: monographic outline of the issue of aid given to the Jews; collection of German and Polish documents concerning the histories of Jews and the aid given to them; collection of the post-war reports created by Poles and Jews about the aid.
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 363
  • Red., Wywiad z Heleną Damską, Izraelskie Nowiny i Kurier