The Koźmiński Family

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Longing for Supernatural Things - the Story of Maria and Anna Koźmiński

In the autumn of 1942, Maria and Anna Koźmiński cared for eight-year-old Abraham Jabłoński. During the Holocaust, the boy had escaped from the Częstochowa ghetto thanks to the actions of both his own family and Polish friendsdzięki wspólnej akcji własnej rodziny oraz znajomych Polaków. Despite his "bad appearance", he lived quite openly outside the ghetto and even served as an altar boy in the monastery of the Pauline Fathers on Jasna Góra. 


In her account, Izabela Sztyma (nee Jabłońska) begins with, "On Yom Kippur, the ghetto was surrounded and the deportations to Treblinka began".  In the autumn of 1942. her parents and younger siblings, Lonia and Abraham Jabłoński, found themselves in the ghetto in Częstochowa. They had fled there from Otwock, near Warsaw, in the hope of finding employment in one of the many workshops. The family originally came from Złoczew (Sieradzki District). 

The Jabłoński Family - Escape from the Ghetto to the "Aryan Side"

Iza, the oldest of the siblings, hid on the "Aryan side", using false identity papers. She remained in contact with her uncle Szlama (Stefan) Jabłoński, her father's brother. Together, they organised the escape of Lonia and Abraham from the closed-off district.

During the chaos of the liquidation of the Częstochowa ghetto, during the night, the Jabłoński couple squeezed their two children through a basement door and handed them over to a Pole, probably a "navy-blue policeman". In the morning, Iza appeared to collect the boy and girl. 

For the next few days, Abraham hid in a basement. His sister and uncle looked for a safe shelter for him. Izabella recalls, "After a period of hiding my brother in various 'dens', my uncle managed […] to take Abram to the Koźmiński ladies”

The Koźmiński Ladies - Life Before the War and During the Occupation

Anna Koźmińska (called "Hanka") lived in Częstochowa. Her father had fought in the Legions. He returned from the War with both the Virtuti Militari and tuberculosis. He infected his family with the illness. Little Ania first lost her mother, later her brother and grandmother and, in the end, her father. She remained with his second wife, Maria (nee Hoffman), whom she called her "second mum". 

During the German occupation, Anna obtained a job as a secretary in a printing house. She earned extra money by selling food brought in from the countryside. Maria worked in the stationery shop of the printing house. The business was managed by Mrs Niekraszowa, a friend of Szlama (Stefan Jabłoński). She was probably the one who revealed to the Koźmiński ladies that a Jewish child was hiding in her coal cellar. She was worried about the lack of light there, which might affect the boy's eyesight. She was also afraid for her family - searches were being conducted in the tenement buildings. 

Not far from Jasna Góra - Hiding a Jewish Boy 

"Black hair like ebony and as pale as misfortune”, is how Anna Koźmińska remember Abram, more than eight years later, in an interview given to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

"We surrounded him […] with loving care, providing him with a home and maintaining him, […] and with our hearts so that the boy would not feel like a stranger.”

In her account, Izabela wrote:

"Anna Koźmińska never asked how long she would have to keep my brother […] according to the principle of 'loving your neighbour as yourself', knowing that they would receive money for it, despite the fact that their material situation wa very difficult.”  

Abramek (known then as ""Bogdan Bloch”) lived with the Koźmiński ladies on ulica Wieluńska, less than a ten-minute walk from the Pauline Fathers on Jasna Góra. Flats in that area were cheaper. Maria Koźmińska rented one of the two rooms to pilgrims or to students from the countrside, in order to balance her domestic budget. The boy slept on a straw matress in the kitchen. He never used the cellar, prepared just in case.

"I told friends that the child was with us temporarily, that there had been a family tragedy and that his mother would come for him soon. That calmed those in the immediate surroundings - people had problems of their own.”

Just behind the house was a meadow, partially adapted for gardens.

"It was very damp, with water splashing up to your ankles. […] There was an anthill of kids there […]. The greatest joy was collecting and bringing home what had been grown there. I remember the wonderful beets, other vegetables and some fruit, especially the gooseberries”, recalls Anna.

"Am I allowed to pray to your God?”

During the common meals, Abram peppered Anna with questions: "His interests were great and I tried to satisfy his thirst for knowledge". Once, the boy asked if he could sell the newspapers which Anna would bring home from work - he wanted to have his own money. He sold them to neighbours. Once, withthe money ha had earned, he even went to the cinema. At the time, neither of the Koźmiński women knew about it.

When Anna went to a nearby church, Abram asked:

"Can I pray? Can I go with you?”. They went together. "The church was full of people. […] I see that he's sitting there withhis hat on. I was terrified, because everyone knew me”. She recalls, "He had a longing for the supernatural. […] 'Am I allowed to pray to your God?', he asked. 'There is no our God or your God. God is everyone's', I replied.”

And so, during the day, he prayed to Hanka's God and, at night, to his parents' God. 

"There is such a nice priest. They gave us white shirts and we rang the bell”, he said, when it appeared that he had been in Jasna Góra. "He wanted to be an altar boy. I think that he ended up [ed. there] just following others. He went to a nearby church, met other boys who were studying for communion and they took him there. […] And he had a picture, best of all, with Jasna Góra in the background”.

He wa conviced that the fathers there did not know that he was a Jew.

Stefan and Other Jews Hiding with the Koźmiński Ladies

The Koźmiński ladies remember that Stan Jabloński, who was jopenly going about on the "Aryan side",visited Abramek several times: "He was concerned that the child should feel good. […] Once, he brought him an apple. […] Abraham kept that apple to his heart and didn't eat it for several days”.

"No one gave their names and no one asked”, says Anna.

For some time, the Koźminski ladies also hid a distant relative of the Jabłoński family Mr. Rubinstein, as well as his friend Rita and her mother Stefa. Anna remembers Rita's boyfriend. "He was a Pole and so in love that he would lay down his life. […] They used to dance and play loudly, unaware of the consequences or not caring about them”. 

Parting After the War

In January 1945, Abram's aunt Fela, Stefan's wife, came for him. Anna was at work and so they did not say goodbye. Forty-seven years later, Abram Abram appeared with a bouquet of red roses. 

After the War, those members of the Jabłoński family who had survived the Holocaust, met in Złoczew. They wartime experiences and a pogrom atmosphere in post-War Poland and an aversion to Jews reurning to their own homes influenced the decision to emigrate. "They left […]. Abram wanted to go to Israel. Lonia i Ignacy follwoed him”. 

To this days, Abram's descendants maintain contact with Anna.

On 11th February 1991, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem honoured Anna Koźmińska and her step-mother Maria with the title of Righteous Among the Nations

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Warszawie, Dział Dokumentacji Odznaczeń Yad Vashem; Dokumenty Marii i Anny Koźmińskich, sygn. 349/24/1544
  • Jackl Klara, 12.02.2020