Jasik Stanisław

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Escape from the Botanical Garden. The Story of Stanisław Jasik

During the German occupation, railwayman Stanisław Jasik helped his Jewish friend Berta Kraśnic. During the Holocaust, Berta hid in his apartment at 78 Złota Street in Warsaw and, later, with a friend. As the manager of the Warszawa Gdańska railway station, Jasik also helped Leopold Popper and his son who, in the summer of 1942, during the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, found themselves at the Umschlagplatz. He organised shelter for them with the Arwanitti family, friends of his.


Of his grandfather, Wojciech Wróblewski recalls:

“In his recollection, it was always ‘Stara’ [the old one]. […] When my grandfather used to say ‘Stara’, there was a strange mixture of sympathy, tenderness, respect and adoration. I think that these two people, coming from completely different worlds, were united in a feeling which, today, we could an honest and lifelong friendship”.

Poznańska Street Before the War – the Jasik and Kraśnic Families

Following their marriage, Stanisław and Aniela Jasik lived on Poznańska St. No. 37 in Warsaw, where the caretaker was Aniela’s father, Wojciech Wypierowski. They lived in a one-room apartment in this wealthy tenement building. Stanisław came from a peasant family, but was raised in the Warsaw suburb of Solec. He did not actively participate in the battles of World War I, but joined the army in 1920 during the Polish-Bolshevik War – he fought in the Volunteer Driving Division (the Hussars of Death). He later continued working for the railway, where he had begun in 1917 on the Warsaw–Gdańsk line.

“My grandfather was a railwayman and, before the war, that was worker aristocracy”.

Aniela became friends with Klara, the Kraśnic family’s housekeeper. They were the tenants of a multi-room apartment No. 7 on the first floor. Łazarz Kraśnic made his living producing matches. Berta Kraśnic (née Berezowska) raised four children – two sons and two daughters. In the 1930’s, the sons, Misza i Zunia, left to study at the polytechnic in Paris. One of the daughters, Sonia (known as Zofia), married just before the war and moved to Lwów. 

After the Jasik family had moved, with their two children, to 78 Złota St., Aniela continued to visit Klara at the Kraśnic home. 

The Occupation – Stanisław Jasik’s Activity in the Underground

During the German occupation, Stanisław Jasik continued working for the railway. From 1940, he belonged to the Związek Walki Zbrojnej (Union of Armed Struggle) and, from 1942, to the Armia Krajowa (Home Army). He provided information on warehouses and on destinations of German trains heading to the Eastern Front. As a worker for Kedyw AK, he delivered and received small arms, with which soldiers carried out sentences imposed by the Polish Underground State

The Germans expelled the Kraśnic couple, their daughter and also Berta, from the apartment on Poznańska St. In 1940, the family was required to move into the ghetto, but remained in contact with their Polish friends. Berta carried out forced labour in the Botanical Garden on Ujazdowskie Avenue.

“Every day, she left for work in a column of Jews and, in the eveninigs, returned to the Kraśnic apartment. She worked in […] the farm (greenhouses). The fruit and vegetables grown there could be freely bought at the beginning of the occupation (just like before the war)”.

When Mr Kraśnic fell ill, his daughter took care of him. 

Escape from the Botanical Garden – Hiding Berta Kraśnic in the Jasik Apartment

One autumn day, in 1940 or 1941, Stanisław Jasik appeared at the Botanical Garden on Ujazdowskie Avenue:

“He entered through the south gate and headed for the greenhouse. He was holding a large wicker basket with a handle. On the bottom of the basket was […] a sheet lining for vegetable and, under it, his wife’s women’s duster […]. He bought a couple of tomatoes, some cucumbers and cabbage. In the corner of one the greenhouses, he told ‘Stara’ to remove her Star of David armband and handed her a coat and headscarf. She was to tie the scarf under her chin like a married woman. Then, he took ‘Stara’ by the arm, the other arm holding the basket of vegetables, and left the Garden by the north gate, politely greeting […] the guard as they went. They walked (with trembling knees) a few kilometres to Złota St. Apparently, in the apartment, Mrs Kraśnic almost fainted from fear”. 

For several weeks, the five – the Jasik couple, their son Zdzisław (15 yo), their daughter Halina (11 yo) and Berta – lived in one room. “[…] the heavy wardrobe was moved away from the wall. A curtain was placed between the wardrobe and the wall. Behind the wardrobe there was a narrow couch for ‘Stara”. The family received family and friends in the kitchen. When she fell ill, she had a high fever and was coughing. “[…] she knew that she had to remain quiet, that it was better not to breathe and, God forbid, not to cough!”. 

Soon after, MrJasik found her a place in Praga – most probably with friends Jerzy and Helena Arwanitti who, in their apartment, were already hiding Rina Karwesser and her mother Gina. The women had escaped from the Grodzisk Mazowiecki ghetto. Their relative,

“Colonel Włodzimierz Arwanitti was an officer in the Polish Army. […] He had probably met [Jasik] during the Polish-Bolshevik War and they had probably kept in touch with each other over the next several years”. 

From the Ghetto to the “Aryan Side” – Jasik’s Help for Other Jews

Stanisław Jasik had a pass to get him into the ghetto. Trains, which departed from the Umschlagplatz, passed through the Warsaw Gdańsk railway station, where he worked. During the major liquidation operation of the Warsaw Ghetto, in the summer of 1942, he helped Leopold Popper, and his son Jerzy, to cross over to the Aryan side. He took them to friends – again the Arwanitti family. 

In the winter of 1943/1944, another young woman asked him to lead her and her very young son to cross to the “Aryan side”.

“It happened in the early afternoon. My grandfather told her to come to the same place on the following evening, as that was when he finished work. She came. Grandfather told her to put on a woolen scarf on her head […] and he hid her little boy under a large, sheepskin coat. They headed west, towards ulica Okopowa. There was a bitter frost and the snow creaked underfoot. Apparently, when they left the ghetto, the little boy started talking nervously. When they had reached the cemetery wall, they encounteres a German patrol coming in the other direction. When the little one heard the Germans from afar, he immediately fell silent and clung like an animal to my grandfather”.

As a railwayman, he was able to move around the city after the curfew. That same evening, he delivered the two to a friend in Praga. Their further fate is unknown. 

The Post-War Fate of the Rescuers and the Rescued

The Kasik family stayed on Złota St. until the end of September 1944: “My grandfather fought in the [Warsaw – ed.] Uprising, initially in Żoliborz”.

He began as platoon commander of the miners’ (sapper) team in the “Żywiciel” group. After the Uprising, he hid his pistol in the ruins and, at the beginning of October, he reached the transit camp in Pruszków. From there, he extracted Aniela and the children and, on foot, they made their way to their family village near Sochaczew.

It is unknown as to what happened to Berta Kraśnic’s husband and daughter. She and Sonia (Zofia) – who had escaped from Lwów in June 1941, avoiding mass executions and reaching Warsaw where she lived on the “Aryan side” with (among others) the Arwanitti family – emigrated to France. There, they met up with Misza and Zunia. Zofia remarried and emigrated to the United States. 

The Poppers left for Australia. Stanisław Jasik returned to his work on the railway. 

Contact by Letter and the Title of Righteous Among the Nations

The Jasik and Kraśnic families maintained contact via correspondence.

“In 1966/1967, my grandfather visited Berta in Paris. She died in 1969. […]  Letters and packages from Zosia Lipetz reached our mother until (more or less) the middle of the 1970’s. Later, contact was broken off. Zosia then probably passed away. We also had no contact with sons of ‘Stara’ – Misza (Mordechai-Michel) and Zunia (Zbeulon Zalman) Kraśnic”. 

On 27th March 1979, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem honoured Stanisław Jasik with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Jerzy and Helena Arwanitti were honoured on 17th February 1968.

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Wróblewski Andrzej, Wróblewski Wojciech, Wspomnienie o Stanisławie Jasiku (1898–1977) udostępnione Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN, Warszawa 2019