The Strzelecki Family

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An Interview with Barbara Rudzka

Neighbours

"I was born here, here in Dobczyce. (...) My first dad died. Mum remarried”.

"Here, where I lived, there were only four or five families who were Catholic. We lived amongst Jews. By the way, we lived very well. There were no arguments, nothing like that. (...) There was a synagogue here and a market square. There were maybe four Catholic shops - the rest were all Jewish. Dobczyce wasa virtually all Jewish”.

"They (the Pistol family - ed.) were always with us. We would go to them - they had a very large tannery. There Adolf Pistol, his father, his mother and his three sisters. He was there with his wife and children. (...) There was a residence from which you could go straight into the tannery.”

The War

"It was war. I remember like it was today how everyone fled, because no one knew what was happening. But my father said, 'Don't run away. Stay in the basement.' (...). And so he went off to the war and we stayed behind.”

"About two days later, a lieutenant appears. He says, 'Which are the Jewish houses here, because I'm going to burn them down? I've been ordered to burn the Jewish houses'. (...) He was a Pole. The Jewish home here were to be burned. We were next door to Pistol's tannery, (...) he'd escaped - he was gone”.

"They burned down three homes. They burned the sawmill, the mill and some other Jewish home. (...) So mum says, 'That is mine, it's not a Jewish one. A Jew was renting it from me. He even left without paying me anything. If you burn it, you'll be burning my property.' That's how she saved the whole tannery for him”.

"After a time, Pistol returns. WHen she see mum, Mrs Pistol starts crying when she sees that her home had been burgled. It was true.They came from Brzączowidz and stole everything. WHen mum saw what had happened,  (...) she moved them all into us.”

"Later, they ordered all the Jews to get out - to leave for Wieliczki, to the ghetto”.

"Pistol says, 'What should we do?' Mum says, 'You're not going into that furnace, you'll stay and wait.' So the Jews left in wagons. The road was covered in wagons”.

The Basement

"Pistol then stayed for a few days, together with his wife and two children. Adolf Pistol's sister Liba and her fiance stayed. But his parents left for Wieliczki”.

"The Landerer couple also stayed, but only for a couple of days. Kurtzman did not, only his wife stayed. He was in Belgium then. They stayed with us. While everyone else was leaving, they stayed with us through it all”.

"There were nine or ten people sitting in our basement. (...) But my father knew nothing about it. He later became the manager of a mill in Gdów. He only came home once every two or three weeks. He knew nothing about about the Jews in our basement. (...) Only my grandmother, my mum and I knew. There was this older women called Hania Szajbionka. (...) She knew everything. (...) There was also Mrs. Połys (...).They were good friends”.

Searches

"It was night and we were having dinner. (...) We were sitting around the table. The Jews were already in the basement, the entrance covered by linoleum. (...) The Germans appear, dear Jesus, the room was full of Germans. Liba with her fiance fled towards the river. Also, one of the Jews ran off. All the rest were in the basement. So there was a search.”

"Mum didn't hesitate. Straight away, she puts vodka on the table. (...) So they got drunk, slept it off and went away. For the next day or two, it was peaceful again. (...) We were constantly on the alert. There could be a search at any moment. (...) The Germans would light up the night.”

The Ghetto

"Mum then said, 'I can't keep you all. If you can, go to Wieliczki or elsewhere.' And Mrs Połys went with them. She took the children and someone else also. So that she took four of those Jews to Wieliczki. (...) She took them to that ghtteo, to Wieliczki. Pistol, Rózia, their two children, and his sister Zosia still remained.”

"Liba and Mrs Landerer went. Her sister annd her two children, Robert and Herta. She had two children. Four of them went. (...) We had a big house and the Jews stayed with us. There was Otto Bonger, with his wife, son and daughter. There was also Mrs Stiel.”

Trunks

"They left behind wonderful things. They left trunks upstairs, in the hay in the attic. The Germans arrive again. There's a search, but a thorough search. They're looking for Jews and Jews and more Jews. They believe that there are Jews in our home. Mum says that there are no Jews. Where is Pistol? They're looking for Pistol. Pistol was here, he lived here and, for sure, he's still here. Mum says that he's not here. (...) Dad arrives confronted by all this. In perfect German, he says. '(...) There are no Jews here. The Jews only left their trunks here, there, in the hay'.”

"They took everything away in a wagon. (...). They left and, for a certain time, there was peace. (...)”

Suspicion

"At the time, wheren they were with us, they were tenants. Mrs Stolarz came here then. (...) We were sitting in the yard or at the table and Stolarx's daughter says, 'Basia, you've got Jews here.' (...) I told mum what she said. (...) They all then went to the ghetto. Pistol said that they had to go, because there were so many of them. So they went to that ghetto. Then mum tidied up the house. She told everyone that there was only Hania, grandma and mum. There was no one else in the house.”

"They went to that ghetto in Kraków, so that we lost contact with them.”

The Attic

"It was sometime in the following year, in autumn or spring. It was 1940 or 1941, in the spring as I remember. (...) We were alone. It was night and someone knocks at the door. Mum answers the door. Rózia Pistol herself is standing there. (...) She kneels in front of mum. (...) They came without a penny, almost barefoot and naked.”

"She asked mum to take her in. They talked and mum took her in. She says that she's not alone, that she's with her husband, with Zośia and with her children. Her children were in the bushes, waiting to see if we would take them in or not. She went off to get her children and her husband. They came in ones and twos.”

'From then on, they stayed. (...) In the attic. (...) When things got hot, they'd go up there, pull up the ladder and no one could find them. Even the Germans couldn't have got up there. They went up there to sleep, even when it was cold. They had pillows and eiderdowns there.”

"They'd come down when it was quiet. The door and window were open. There were thick curtains. They didn't go anywhere. (Zosia - ed.) and the chidlren went up there to sleep. The Pistol family stayed with us longer (...) and they told us about the Germans, about that ghetto, about everything.”

Responsibilities

"Grandma cooked everything. (...). That Hania Szajbionka would remove the waste and wash out the bucket.”

"And I did the laundry. (...) and I went to do the shopping. I shopped a little here, there and everywhere so that no one would become suspicious. There was to much to buy just for the three of us. That my father was the manager of a mill saved us. There was semolina, flour and cereal. There were three cows here, so that there was milk and cream. So that, somehow, God allowed us to survive.”.

Dokuments

"There was this woman who lived in the castle. She created the identity cards for Liba and Zosia Pistol. I don't remember how Pistol got an identity card. Dyrynkówna sold us both identity cards. They even looked like the photographs. (...) Mum paid for them. They had no money.”

After the War

"They had a very quiet life. Somehow God gave us peace (...). When they emerged, people said that they didn't look like they'd survived a war.”

"From us, they went straight to their home. He opened a tannery there in partnership with Korbas.”

"Those in Kraków stayed there because they were afraid to return. (...) So that no Jews remained. No one. People attacked them. People wanted to rob them. They were simply afraid of people”.

"(...) He came to mumand says, 'Because of what they're doing, we're going to have to get out. Unfortunately, we'll have to leave for Israel'. Mum asks why? He says because there's a growing trend happening in this Polish state. 'I'll have to leave for Israel'. And so they left so quickly that they didn't manage to say goodbye.”

"I was with mum here on the farm. Later, I had to get a job. Later still, there were children and my husband died. I was twenty nine and already a widow with three chidlren. It was very hard. The Pistol family would always send mum something. Once, it was twelve dollars. At that time, a dollar was really worth something. When mum added five dollars to her pension, she had something to live on'”.

The Medal

"They sent me documents. I filled out the forms and returned them. Later, they informed me that they were for the medals.”

 

 

 

 

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

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Bibliography

  • Ewa Opawska, Interview with Barbara Rudzka, 16.08.2010