The Ostrowski Family
An Interview with Witold Ostrowski
Before the War
“No, Jews didn't live here. They lived three or four kilometres away (...). There was one family there and in Osiek. That's also 3-4 kilometres from here. But there were no Jews here. (...) I was still at school with Jews. I remember Waldenburzanka. Things were normal, Poles getting along with Poles or with Jews. There was no antagonism, no force or pressure on them”.
“There was a tolerance (...). Poles never harmed any Jews. A Jew was treated just like a Pole, as a Polish citizen, one can say. They were traders. They didn't have much to do with agriculture”.
“I was in the war in 1939. For a couple of months I was a prisoner when Modlin surrended. We were released from Iłowa - I was there with my brother. My brother was in the 13th Regiment. I was in the gendarmerie (...) Later, I came home. (...), I returned in November, I think”.
“I didn't know her. I dodn't know her at all. She'd escaped from the camp in Strzegowo. That's about 20 kilometres from here, between Płońsk aand Mława, in that area. (…) In Gąbin, they had a mill, a cinema and a shop. They were a rich family. But she had nothing, onbly what she stood up in”.
“Her name, in Yiddish, Rose Grunbaum. Later, after the War, when she married, her name was Rose Dinerman (...). She was more or less my age”.
“They lived five kilometres from me. I knew him. I went to school with him. He brought her here. She was afriad to live there because he lived with two families. Half the house was his, the other half belonged to his neighbour. So they were afraid to keep her there, so he brought her here. (...) Józef Sołdański, he was my friend from elementary school”.
“He couldn't (keep her) because she'd already been discovered there. (...) They'd found out and he was afraid of his neighbour. So he brought her here and she was here until the end”.
“She asked if she could stay for a few days or weeks. (...) I agreed. She didn't even hide herself. She suggested that she be referred to as 'cousin'. That's they way it was. She tinted her hair blonde. She had dark hair, she was dar, like the Jewish race”.
“She was as a 'cousin'. What a cousin, what a war! (...) She'd go out with my mother. I arranged for an identity card for her from the Siemiątkowo council. I had a ffriend from school there. I asked him and he made one out in the name of 'Jadwiga Maciejewska'. She went to church with my mother, everything as though it was all legal. (...) Later, I asked the priest if he'd noticed anything. (...) He said. 'I didn't noticed anything'".
“Yeah, we played chess. SHe was actually quite good at chess. She knitted, you know, scarves, gloves. (...) We treated her like family”.
“She had a identity card, but she was careful. She wasn't afraid here. I remember when there was a raid. It was warm. She didn't drop into the hiding-place. SHe stayed where she was.”.
“My brother was in hiding. He smuggled and hid himslef. He got nine month in Stuthoff and I said, 'I could withstand that, but you?'. Because he was kind of smaller, quite short. So he hid himself and she also when there was a raid”.
“We had a hiding-place, a couple of small hiding-places, at home, one in the basement and the other ner the basement covered by boards”.
“(...) Raids continued. The Germans came - colonists and gendarmes. A German came. He knew my father and me. He opened everything and looked inside. It was a kind of different house - timber and quite large. But there was no inspection, none”.
“There was no direct (...) threat. (...) If someone had put a gun to my head, then maybe, and I'd be afraid. But that's it. I only saved people”.
“The servants, can I call them, also knew. There was a boy who tended the horses and the cattle. There were also two women who worked there - one a housekeeper, the other called Jankosia”.
“Not many people knew that she was a Jew. Of the people around us, (...) not all knew. Maybe someone may have guessed. But no one said anything to the Germans”.
After the War
“On the second day, after the Soviet Army had entered, they saw her here. In the morning, my father led her out onto th eroad to Żałowów, which ran straight ti Bielsk, to Płock and then to Gąbin. That's where he took her”.
“Initially, she left for Austrlia. She wrote to us from there. She went via Paris in France. She married Dunnermann. (...) After six years in Australia, she left for America where her brother lived”.
“In the end, we were transported. They took the farm away from us. I had to leave, so I went to the West”.
“Later, after the War, I was afraid, just as I was with the Germans. Because after the War, there was the UB (Security Bureau) everywhere. While I was still there, because my father had already died, I was harassed. (...) With the Germans, I was only scared of a German, because everyone kept silent, no one said anything. But after the War, it was like a son would give up his father, and so on. That's what people said”.
“I couldn't write first, because I didn't know where she was. She wrote to us when she was already in Australia. She was doing okay. I liked her. We all liked her”.
“She often wrote to us. Yes, she wrote from Australia and then from America”.
“We went to the Historical Institute in Warsaw. They have a building there (...). We went there and, there, a lady says, 'Why are you doing this only no?. You should have done it long ago (...)'. So we tried (...) I wrote to her, the Jewish lady, in New York, because she wrote to us often. And then she wrote to Israel”.