Wąsowska-Leszczyńska Eugenia

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Her apartment was the meeting point of “Żegota”. The story of Eugenia Wąsowska-Leszczyńska

Eugenia Wąsowska-Leszczyńska (1906–1987) was an editor, social and political activist associated with the Democratic Party. During World War II, she shared her apartment at 24 Żurawia Street in Warsaw for the needs of conspiratorial meetings of “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews. She hid Ignacy Samsonowicz (Tadeusz Leszczyński), a member of the General Jewish Labour Party “Bund”, her future husband.


Eugenia Wąsowska came from Kałuszyn (Mazowieckie Province), she was the daughter of farmers, Jan and Paulina née Abramowski. She graduated from school in Kałuszyn, then from the Trade School in Mińsk Mazowiecki, and studied at the School of Political Sciences in Warsaw. In the years 1925–1935 she worked as the head of the publishing house and technical editor in the company “Graphic Publishing Stanisław Lityński in Warsaw”. She published popular science books in the field of education, agriculture and construction.

In 1935 she started working for the Polish Red Cross – first as a manager in charge of propagating ideas, then running the description and announcement department as a member of the Chief Management. During the occupation period, she was personally appointed by Mayor of Warsaw Stefan Starzyński a co-organiser of public soup kitchens in Warsaw. After the Polish capital had fallen, she occupied herself with social work, e.g. an operation for supplying wounded Polish soldiers in hospitals with food.

The meetings of “Żegota”

As early as in 1940–1941, she, acting at her own initiative, started organising care services for those afflicted the most by the war, i.e. for impoverished Jewish people. Close to the end of 1942, asked to do so by members of the Democratic Party, she made her apartment at 24 Żurawia Street apt. 4 (seven rooms, two entrances) available to “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews.

Due to this, her apartment was visited by all leading members of Polish and Jewish organisations constituting a part of “Żegota”, including: Julian Grobelny, Ferdynand Arczyński, Witold Bieńkowski, Władysław Bartoszewski, Ignacy Barski, Leon Feiner, Adolf Berman, Zofia Rudnicka, Emilia Hiżowa, and many, many other. The apartment became the most recognised and important meeting point for joint Polish and Jewish underground activity in Warsaw. Remarkably, it was never “busted” – the Germans never discovered it.


Read more about the Council to Aid Jews “Żegota”

We present the stories of Council members, its structure, its activity methods, memorials in Poland and Israel, as well as memorabilia from POLIN Museum collection. 


The apartment was also a contact point for members of the Central Committee of Bund and for Jewish Fighting Organisation (ŻOB) who were operating outside of the ghetto. It was at their request that Wąsowska hid her future husband Ignacy Samsonowicz “Tadeusz Leszczyński” there from January 1943 until September 1944. He was the author of many well-known appeals and messages to the Jewish underground and she typed them.

Polish and Jewish underground

It was also in that apartment that Jewish clandestine activists discussed ways of combating the Germans and aiding their fellow Jews. Their systematically held meetings resulted in Antek Cukierman, Arie Wilner, Marek Edelman, Bernard Goldstein, Michał Papier, Professor Stanisław Liwszyc, Salo Fiszgrund, and many other people paying frequent visits to her apartment. Weapons of the Jewish Fighting Organisation and secret records of the Central Committee of Bund and the Coordination Committee of the Jewish Fighting Organisation were stored there, as well as money sent via the Government Delegation as aid for the Jewish National Committee.

It was also in that apartment that the leading activists of the Jewish underground were surprised by the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising and spent the period of the fighting.


Read more about the apartment at 24 Żurawia Street

We present the story of Eugenia Wąsowska-Leszczyńska in the virtual exhibition
“The Right Address. Hiding Jews in Occupied Warsaw” »


After the war, reporting on the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Wąsowska wrote: “My apartment has become a great concentration of Poles and Jews, who represented different political directions and cooperated in various military formations”.

That node of clandestine activity was commemorated. There is a plaque with the following inscription on the wall of the tenement house at 24 Żurawia Street:

From 1942 to 1944, a secret office of the Council to Aid Jews “Żegota”, a social organisation of the Polish Underground State striving to save Jews threatened with death by the Nazi occupant, was located in this building. The plaque was set in the wall on the 54th anniversary of the uprising in the ghetto at the initiative of the Association of Jewish Combatants in Poland. President of the capital city of Warsaw.

Eugenia Wąsowska helped others selflessly, risking her life all the time:

Everybody thoroughly analyzes my activity in the years of the previous war, must objectively state that I acted on the most vulnerable section, which was helping Jews, and that I have a moral right to expect my name to be included on the list of people who sacrificed on saving Jews from certain death. People who, for many years of terrible occupational terror, risked their lives daily to save others.

In 1985 the Yad Vashem Institute awarded her with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

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Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349/24, 234
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • 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.
  • Arczyński Marek, Balcerak Wiesław, Kryptonim "Żegota". Z dziejów pomocy Żydom w Polsce 1939-1945, Warszawa 1983
  • Prekerowa Teresa, Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Żydom w Warszawie 1942-1945, Warszawa 1982
    A monograph concerning the Council to Aid Jews, an organization operating during the war in the Government Delegation for Poland and providing help to Jews, especially those hiding on “the Aryan side”.