The Działoszyński family

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“A guest is a blessing from God.” The story of Mira Ledowski-Krum

“There is this Italian film called Life Is Beautiful. My mother also created that sort of a magical world around me. We were hiding in a basement, it was dark, glum, and smelly. But my mother would tell me wonderful stories, teach me poems. You can put so much faith in a child that it believes that everything its mother says is true. The child believes, is enchanted by the world it lives in. And the truth seems almost invisible” – says Mira Ledowski-Krum.

She was born in 1937 in Tłumacz near Stanisławów (Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine).

“Until 1941, we lived in heaven. There were so many wonderful smells, my grandma was a real chef. She would make jam and butter. I was brought up in a paradise bursting with colour and suddenly we ended up in some house, were taken upstairs, shown some nook and told: «You’re going to live here»”.

The family had to move to a ghetto. “My mother gave me a slice of bread that had been distributed around the ghetto. It had a terrible smell. I didn’t want to eat it. But after a day or two I approached my mum and said: «Mummy,  I’m hungry». She gave me the bread and I gobbled it up in no time.

And then I said: «Mummy, more». And my mum did not have any more, she just started crying and didn’t say anything. From then on, I never asked her to give me anything”.

Most members of Mira’s family died in Bełżec. During the liquidation of the ghetto, she, her parents and her mum’s older brother hid in a hiding place in the attic of a neighbouring house. Mira’s mother – Adela – hid there with an infant boy. Tragically, the child was killed so that the hideout wouldn’t be compromised. Germans searched through the house but did not find anyone.

“It wasn’t allowed to move or hug your mum or dad, because it was incredibly dangerous. And when we got out, my brother had already been dead. You can see what happened to him in the film In Darkness. Everyone’s lives were endangered because of the baby”.

The Krum family managed to escape from the ghetto. They ended up in the village of Beremiany. There, they found shelter in the basement of the house of the Polish Dwoliński family, who supplied them with food and took out gross. Despite the dire living conditions in the basement, Adela managed to find numerous things for Mira to do.

“There was a small window with a sill outside. Sparrows would often sit there, take a bath in the stream, fight one another. Every day I would sit by the window and watch them. Apart from that, I had plasticine – you could scrape clay off of the walls and mould it into animals, various creatures and monsters.”

After more than 10 months, the Dwoliński family was denounced and a search was performed in their house. It was a miracle that Germans did not manage to find the people in hiding. The owner of the house asked the Krum family to leave. The risk was too high.

Mira’s uncle joined a partisan unit. Her father died when they were looking for another hiding place. Mira and her mother went from house to house, asking for help.

“My mother knocked on the door of a shabby hut. A short woman opened the door. She did not ask any questions, she just said: «A guest is a blessing from God. Come in». And she sat us at the table”. Antonina Działoszyńska, a widow, lived with her two children. She quickly realised that the newcomers were Jewish, but she offered them to stay. “It’s enough for three people and it will be enough for five”, she said. She went to the local priest to get them fake documents and introduced Adela to her neighbours saying that she was a cousin of her deceased husband.

In August 1944, a German soldier moved into the house. One day he called Mira and sat her on his lap. “I was sitting there and he embraced me and said that he had a daughter just like me. And that she wore braids, too. Then he asked me something and I answered in Jewish. He then stood up and went to his room. And my mother said, without even raising her head: «He must have gone to get his revolver». But he returned with an envelope and said: «Here’s a letter to my wife, if Germans catch you or send you to Vienna, I asked her to take care of you». Maybe he was in love with mum…”

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Adela and Mira survived the period of occupation and so did Adela’s youngest brother – Wilhelm Hartenstein. In 1957, the two women migrated to Israel. Mira Ledowski-Krum worked as a school teacher for 36 years; she taught Hebrew and the Bible. She currently teaches Polish in the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv. As she herself underlines, she has always had warm feelings towards Poland.