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"Our Apartment Unexpectedly Became an Address Where One Could Hide For a While" - the Story of Maria Huszcz

Before the War, Maria Huszcz and her husband lived in Lwów. He was a baker, while she cared for their three children. Various traditions were maintained in the home. Their daughter Alicja recalls that "my father's family's language at home was Ukrainian and their religion was Orthodox. My mother's family were Catholic and their language was Polish. There was no problem. We went to the Orthodox church and they went to the Catholic church. We always observed the holidays twice. The environment in which I was raised was diverse religiously and culturally. It made no difference if someone was a Jew, an Armenian or a Ukrainian”.

Following the outbreak of World War II and the Soviet occupation of the city, the family's financial situation deteriorated. When the Germans entered Lwów, it became even worse. Maria's husband was arrested by the Gestapo and ended up in the Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin.

Maria "was certainly one of thousands of women who found themselves in such a critical and hard situation. She was 29 years old and, suddenly, she found herself alone with three small children, the youngest of whom was one year old, while the eldest was six. She coped. She managed to care for the children and feed them. She even managed to care for other children whose lives she most certainly save”. One of those children who Maria cared for was Róża Kaufman. However, she had earlier help the children of Jewish friends.

When the Jewish Tauchman family, who were Maria's friends, moved into the Lwów ghetto, their financial situation quickly deteriorated. Maria then brought them food. "When entry into the ghetto was no long possible for her, she sent her own child, wearing a Star armband and carrying a basket full of food", she wrote. Alicja, almost unnoticed, entered the closed-off area. This continued until the Germans sent the Tauchman couple and their daughter to an extermination camp.

Maria also helped her pre-War friend Kamila. Both women liked each other very much and provided each other with mutual support at difficult moments. When Kamila was caught in a street round-up and taken to a labour camp for Jews, Maria used her contacts to set her free. She was arrested again and, again through Maria's help, was freed but then never again left the apartment of her Polish friend.

Kamila's friend, Czesław, temporarily hid with Maria Huszcz. His sister Rena, and her son Tadeusz, stayed for a longer period. "Our apartment unexpectedly became an address where one could hide for a while. They had to hide somewhere for a while and it was known that they could hide here", explains Alicja.

The presence of strangers in Maria's apartment did not escape the attention of neighbours. This most probably led to a report to the Gestapo that Jews were hiding there. A search was conducted. "Our course mum had prepared a hiding place earlier because, if someone came, they had to hide themselves. In the hallway, between the Miszturaks' door (neighbours) and our hallway, was a space in between. A large dresser stood there, so it was relatively safe. Mum hung a large hook in the hallway for clothes - almost right down to the bottom”.

During a search, one of the Germans noticed the tips of shoes sticking out from behind the stand and discovered those hiding there. Attempts at bribery did not help. Kamila, Rena and Tadeusz were taken away. However, Maria's life was spared and she no longer had any contact with them. They were most probably murdered. Czesław also did not survive the War.

After a certain time, a Polish friend of Maria's asked her for a favour. She had been hiding Róża Kaufman in her home. Róża was a twelve year old girl. The woman had to go away for a few days and asked Maria to take in the girl. Days passed, but the woman did not return top collect the girl. Maria was afraid a keeping the girl, but when told, the girl burst out crying.

"I began crying terribly. My younger siblings naturally didn't understand what was going on, but they saw that Rózia was crying - so they started crying also. Mum was helpless and didn't know what to do. In the end, she too started to cry and said, 'It's in G-d's hand. Whatever will be, will be. You can stay”.

The girl stayed with the family and, even though she never left the apartment, the neighbours again began gossiping that Maria was helping Jews. She then took the girl to her own mother's home in Solec Zdrój.

Róża Kaufman survived the occupation. After the War, she left for Israel and changed her name to Shoshana Glikstein. She remained in contact with Maria and her children.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział dokumentacji odznaczeń Yad Vashem, sprawa Marii Huszcz, 349/24/733
  • Archiwum Instytutu Yad Vashem, 3671
  • Łukasz Karaibski, 4.12.2015