The Gąsiorowski Family

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“If there is enough bread for us, there will be enough for her”. The story of the Gąsiorowski family

During the German occupation, Lucjan and Anna Gąsiorowska from the village of Nuna near Nasielsk helped 12-year-old Doba Drezner from Serock, an escapee from the ghettos in Warsaw and Legionowo. In 1944, the girl settled in the Gąsiorowski homestead and stayed there until the end of the war. The preceding two years she spent wandering around the villages near her native Serock, looking for a safe haven during the Holocaust. 


“Dear Mr Stanisław Gąsiorowski, you certainly do not remember me. In 1943 your father and mother accepted me as a servant. […] I know many people who were also sheltered by Poles during the war. I think that your father Lucjan Gąsiorowski knew that I was a Jewess, but he never talked about it” – wrote Diana Albert (Doba Drezner) many years after the war.

Drezner family from Serock

Doba Drezner was the daughter of Dawid, a blacksmith and teacher of Hebrew, and Jenta, the owner of a small clothing store in Serock.

When, in December 1939, the Germans began deporting Jews from Serock which was incorporated into the Third Reich, Doba, her parents and her brother Alter hid at the Jewish cemetery and then fled to Legionowo, where Dawid’s sister lived. Shortly thereafter, Jenta Drezner fell ill with tuberculosis and died.

Doba spent some time with her aunt Sara Rywka Klajman in the Warsaw ghetto. When in July 1942, the Germans started the so-called great ghetto liquidation action, the Klajman family sent the girl to her father in Legionowo. A few weeks later, after Alter’s death and just before the liquidation of the Legionowo ghetto in October 1942, Dawid Drezner decided to save his daughter by getting her out to the so-called Aryan side. 

For two years, the young adolescent wandered in the villages near her hometown of Serock. She maintained that she was an orphan and her name was “Danuta Sokołowska”. She often changed her places of stay. She met different people – some helped her, others took advantage of her, took money and beat her

In the second half of 1944, Doba reached Nuna – a village 10 km south-east of Nasielsk. She found shelter in the homestead of the Gąsiorowski family.

Help for Doba Drezner. The Gąsiorowski family from the village of Nuna near Nasielsk

Lucjan Gąsiorowski and his wife Anna were farmers, they had four sons: Czesław, Wojciech, Eustachiusz (also known as Stasiek) and Jan. Their fifth son died in an accident. Although the family was not wealthy, they decided to help Doba.

This is how Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski remembered the first encounter: 

“It was like lunchtime, maybe at 2 p.m., maybe at 3 p.m. Danusia came from the road. She said she was looking for a night’s lodging and nobody wanted to provide it. Mother was not very keen, but father said: » If there is enough bread for us, there will be enough for her«”.

For the following months, Doba lived with the Gąsiorowski family. She was called “Danusia”. She had the so-called good appearance and the farm was off the beaten track, so she didn’t have to hide. Nevertheless, the Gąsiorowski family – fearing severe punishment for helping Jews in occupied Poland, even the death penalty – kept the knowledge of her origin strictly secret, not even letting their own children know about it.

The girl worked on the farm fed the animals and looked after the youngest son Jan. She had already been acquainted with the practices of the Christian religion and, together with the Gąsiorowski family, participated in services in the Nasielsk church. From time to time Lucjan joked that in the future he would marry Danusia to his son, Czesław. She had best contacts with Eustachiusz.

Despite the parental care shown by the Gąsiorowski family, the girl was tormented by the traumatic experiences of the last few months. In dreams, her brother Alter would come to her. She felt lonely, weakened, had no appetite. 

End of the war and emigration to the United States

In September 1944, Red Army soldiers reached Narew river, and in October they fought in the Serock area. Nuna found itself in the front zone. Until January 1945, the inhabitants of the village lived under constant threat. Doba and others were forced to work on building German fortifications. When in January missiles started falling on Nuna, the girl together with the Gąsiorowski family hid in the potato cellar for two days.

In 1946, Doba left the Gąsiorowski family without saying goodbye. It was not an easy decision for a fourteen-year-old girl. “She considered fleeing, but the thought of becoming Jewish again terrified her” – wrote her daughter Helen Albert years later.

Doba went to Legionowo. She did not find her father – almost all the local Jews perished in the Holocaust. After a short stay in Warsaw, she was sent to a Jewish orphanage in Otwock, then to Częstochowa, and in 1948 to Krakow. In the same year, a family from New York tracked down Doba. In early 1949, after a two-week voyage across the Atlantic, Doba reached the United States.

Doba Drezner’s (Diana Albert) fate after the war

Contact with the Gąsiorowski family got cut off. The girl’s adoptive parents were saddened by her departure, while Doba tried to cope with the traumatic experiences.

“After the war, I was able to talk about my past, but the staff of the orphanage encouraged the children to forget about our suffering and think about a better tomorrow. In the US, when I tried to talk to my uncle who lost his first wife and four children, he and my aunt used to say: »Don’t think about the past, time will heal everything«” – Doba recalled.

In the United States, Doba changed her name to Diana. In 1954, she married Oscar (originally Szyja) Albert. Hery husband – a former prisoner of the forced labour camps in Budzyń and Płaszów and the concentration camp in Flossenbürg – did not want to think back to Poland and reminisce about the times of the Holocaust

“Dear Mr Stanisław Gąsiorowski, you certainly do not remember me. In 1943 your father and mother accepted me as a servant. […] I remember you well. You were about two years younger than me. At that time my name was Danka Sokołowska. Now my name is Diana Albert, I have a husband, three children and I live in New York. […] I know many people who were also sheltered by Poles during the war. I think that your father Lucjan Gąsiorowski knew that I was a Jewess, but he never talked about it”.

The letter was never sent, Diana did not know the recipient’s address.

Return to Poland. Meeting with the Gąsiorowski family

Many years later, Diana’s granddaughter, Hannah Champness, on the occasion of her bat mitzvah, decided to raise funds for the construction of a monument at the Jewish cemetery in Serock. It was also an impulse to resume the search for Gąsiorowski family. Thanks to the help of the employees of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Andrzej Królak, the mayor of the village of Nuna, the search for Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski – the last living member of the family – proved successful.

In August 2014, Diana Albert, together with her daughter Helen, son David and granddaughter Hannah, came to Nuna. During a party hosted by Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski, Hannah said:

“Thank you for what your family has done. Me and we all owe you our lives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are our guardian angels.

Diana and Eustachiusz talked to each other for a long time, and then – as 70 years earlier – they fed geese and chickens together.

On April 19, 2015, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem posthumously honoured Lucjan and Anna Gąsiorowski with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The awarded medal and honorary diploma were collected by Eustachiusz Gąsiorowski and his daughter Mariola Wyszyńska during a ceremony at POLIN Museum on February 26, 2020.

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Bibliography

  • Archiwum Instytutu Yad Vashem w Jerozolimie, Departament Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata; Dokumenty Lucjana i Anny Gąsiorowskich, sygn. M.31.2/13048
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce, Wydział Oświaty, sygn. 303/IX/814
  • Dokumenty prywatne Diany Albert w posiadaniu Helen Albert
  • Szczepański J. E., Ludność żydowska w Legionowie i jej Zagłada, Legionowo 2017
  • Zapis video spotkania Diany Albert z Eustachiuszem Gąsiorowskim w dn. 23.08.2014, w posiadaniu autora