The Plazinski Family

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An Interview with Zuzanna Warchoł-Baran

“We lived in the village of Święty Stanisław. It was an ethnically Polish village (...) our home was a distance outside the village (...) about 150 metres”.

The Doctor

“I fell very ill (...) The paramedic (felczer) told mum that, in Ottynia, there was a very good doctor, a Jew. And so mum took me to him. He told mum that she had brought him a corpse. I was convulsing. I was dying. (...) He said that if I lived through the night, then maybe I might survive, but she would have to bring me back for injections. He was a good man, both as a doctor and as a person. He cured me. (...) Mum never forgot that and always said that, until her dying day, she would never forget him, what he did for us and that he had saved me”.

“When the Jews began to be persecuted, even inquiring about the fate of Jews could be dangerous. But mum said that if that person stopped her on the road, that doctor, then she would gladly help him. As it turned out, that never happened, but something else occurred in my mother’s life”.

Szlim

“There was this Jewish inn and mum went there asking for help. She wanted to borrow a torch to help her cross the forest more easily. One of the Jew’s sons said (...) that he would lead mum through the forest. And he took her. My mum always remembered that also”.

“Once, when we were already (…) under German occupation, mum went into the barn. (...) She got a terrible shock. (...) Szlim, who had taken her through the forest, was sitting there. Mum recognised him, but he didn’t recognise her as the woman he had led through the forest (...). He didn’t remember, but mum remembered. So, she offered him her help”.

“He said that he could cope. He was a young man. His entire family had perished. He alone remained, but he had a girlfriend. Ania was more than two years older than me which, in a sense, elicited a certain sympathy. He said that her conditions were extremely harsh and that she was very ill”.

Ania

“Her uncle was a dentist in Stanisławów. (...) He was very sought after. He even worked with the Germans as a dentist. The Jews knew how to deal with those situations. One friendly German told him that he was due to be liquidated, that he should gather up the rest of his family and go into hiding. And that’s what he did”.

“They didn’t transport the Jews to Auschwitz from this Kołomyia (...) the Ukrainians dealt with them (...) the Ukrainian police. (...) They took them to this oak forest. That Szlim was later also killed by a Ukrainian policeman. They dug holes there, shot them and didn’t even bother to fill them in”.

“He only managed to save Ania’s mother, her brother and their cousins. They were all hiding in the forest. (...) He had a few friends who helped him. They created some dugouts there and remained in those forests. (...) And there Ania, who later became my friend, got terrible frostbite on her legs. All her toes – my uncle cut off those toes”.

“She was around fifteen years old. (...) She was desperate for help. Mum simply felt an appreciation to that doctor - empathy. She said: I’d gladly help, but I’m afraid”.

“When I heard him telling us about that girl, (...) I started crying, pleading with mum that I had no friends and no sisters. From a distance, no one would notice that there was a difference in hair colour or facial features (...). Mum agreed to take in the girl. (...) When she came to us, she was like a skeleton. (...) Her legs hadn’t yet completely healed. It was terrible. She had no toes”.

Uncle

“That uncle (ed: a dental surgeon), the mother and her sister, survived. I have to admit that there were good people in Święty Stanisław. The village’s very name indicates very pious. Our family was also. So they were also taken to other families”.

“That uncle kicked around alone in those forests. So they feared for his life. He had repeatedly said that he would take his own life because he had lost his wife, son and daughter. (...) Szlim said (...) said that the man wanted to take his own life, that he would surely perish, that it would be easier for the girl. She herself also began asking (...)”.

“After a week or two, he linked up with his niece and they stayed with us until the front approached”.

A Secret

“My aunt had a son. He hid with us. He knew about them. (...) He was a wonderful boy, wonderful. He was hiding with us to avoid being transported to Germany. (...) He didn’t even tell his mother. If his mother had found out (...) well, she wasn’t so tolerant”.

“It wasn’t so bad for them with us. (...) They had a great deal of freedom, especially the girl. She could play with me and we even slept together. We were friends, a friendship that has almost lasted until today. But, now, I don’t know what has happened to her”.

“They had a kind of hiding place created in the attic, lined with straw and hay. They spent the nights there. She preferred to be with me. The uncle stayed there overnight and went about normally during the day. Our home could be seen from both sides. If someone came, they would have to leave and then explain that they’d only just arrived. (...) No one knew about them”.

“That Józef Renert (...) went to his brother and his sister. He went there by night. He went about everywhere and kept in contact with them”.

Fear

“There was a manhunt. Young people were sent to Germany. Mum was far from home when she found out about it. She came running. I thought she’d have a heart attack. But they left out our house (...). Mum then issued an ultimatum – they had to clear off. Ania began crying. I began crying and he also cried. He then swore that if they were caught, they would not involve us, that they would be found alone. Mum’s attitude then softened. (...) That was a dramatic experience”.

The Front

“It was the spring of 1944. (...) The defeats had already begun and they sensed it – uncle and the other one who was with us. They were very smart, especially that dentist. They decided to get out of our village and go to where some dental gold had been buried. (...) Józef went off and brought it. My father went to Kołomyia, sold it and brought back the money with which they bought a wagon from people in our village”.

“There was so much confusion, that they were able to buy a wagon and horse with which they all headed off most probably in the direction of Rumania. They managed to survive. We were burn out. Was it because we were hiding Jews? Perhaps not. They simply burned us out. They wanted to shoot my father. They completely burned everything. (...) The Germans”.

“They wanted to shoot my father. Thankfully, my mum knew a little German because my grandmother was from Silesia. My grandmother spoke perfect German. (...) They shot many people. They also wanted to shoot my father. When mum pleaded that this was her husband, they were told to scram. With guns pointed at us, we ran off. We returned a week later. It was then that I understood what real hunger felt like, as I hadn’t eaten for almost a week. We settled in a home abandoned by one man who had left for Kołomyja. And there we lived in immense poverty. We had nothing”.

Gratitude

“Towards autumn, we see Józef riding up on a horse. He had felt gratitude. He came, on the horse, and saw our circumstances. (...) They also didn’t have very much. (...) He says, ‘We’ll help you as much as we can’. He gave us something, I don’t know how much, and that helped us to buy grain or flour”.

“We left for the West and lost contact with the family whom we had saved. My parents settled near Trzcińsko-Zdrój, in the district of Chojna, in Góralice. Not even a year had gone by when Józef returned. He again offered a little help. (...) Whatever they could. We had nothing but she, for example, if she had some dress, she would give it to me. (...) He came and helped to plough a small piece of land. He helped my father buy a horse. He tried to help as much as he could”.

“We remained in contact that way until 1958. Józef Renert also came to our wedding. They didn’t even let us know that they were leaving for Israel. I don’t know why that happened”.

“I have to admit that they tried to repay us as much as they were able. Even a kind word is important, a willingness. For example, when I met Ania for the first time, she had a beautiful bracelet on her arm. Straight away, she took it off and gave it to me”.

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Bibliography

  • Magdalena Suchodolska, Interview with Zuzanna Warchoł-Baran, 19.07.2010