Borkowska Anna

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Anna Borkowska - a Story of Rescue

Mother Bertranda (Janina Siestrzewitowska aka Anna Borkowska) was the Mother Superior of the Dominican Order convent in Kolonia Wileńska near Wilna.

During the War, she his a group of fifteen Jews in her convent. They were members of the Jewish youth group Hashomer Hatzair, known as the "Shomrim". Sister Bertranda and the youth seeking refuge contacted Irena Adamowicz in Warsaw and Jadwiga Dudziec in Wilna.

For a period of time. the young people, among whom were Abe Kowner, Arie Wilner, Chaja Grosman, Edek Boraks, Chuma Godot and Izrael Nagel, remained under the care of the nuns. Apart from Mother Bertranda, whom they affectionately called "Ima" (Hebrew for "Mama"), others involved in their care included Sisters Cecylia (Maria Roszak), Diana (Helena Frąckiewicz), Imelda (Maria Neugebauer), Jordana (Maria Ostreyko), Małgorzata (Irena Adamek) and Stefania (Stanisława Bednarska).

In the winter of 1942, those in hiding decided to leave the convent and to return to the Wilna ghetto in order to organise an armed resistance against the occupiers there. In his book Księga sprawiedliwych, Michał Grynberg quotes Abe Kowner, who recalls how, one day, Sister Bertranda visited them in the ghetto, dressed in civillian clothes, bringing them grenades. "I'm not sure if God was with us, but I know for certain that your face was with us as a source of inspiration”, said Abe Kowner, in 1984, during a ceremony at which the Sisters were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations

In 1943, the Germans learned of the help that the convent had given to the Jews. They arrested the Prioress and closed the convent.

After the War, Sister Bertranda left the spiritual life and took the name "Anna Borkowska". Until her death, she remained in contact with those whom she had cared for and who had survived the Holocaust.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział Dokumentacji Odznaczeń Yad Vashem, 349/24/417