The Folta Family

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The Story of the Fołta family

During the Second World War, Szymon Fołta, his wife Maria née Homa and children, Antoni, Władysław and Aleksandra, lived in Jankowice (Podkarpackie province), where they ran a large farm with the help of married daughters. From 1942, they hid Jewish neighbors. After two years, the Germans carried out a search at the Fołta’s house with the help of the inhabitants of the village.


Before the war, Szymon and Maria Fołta, the parents of Antoni, Władysław, Aleksandra, and three older married daughters, ran a farm in Jankowice near Rzeszów. Their Jewish neighbors, Nesia and her husband, worked on a farm, as well as produced and sold soap.

During the war, the Fołtas were hiding Nesia, her husband, her 7-year-old daughter Mila, sister Regina and a friend of Maria Fołta, Doncia for two years. Sometimes Nesia’s brother also spent a night in the hideout.

Neither the hidden, nor Szymon Fołta survived the war. They were shot by the Nazis in the courtyard of the Fołta’s farm two months before the liberation. Only Nesia’s brother, who was in another place during the German raid, survived.

Probably in 1942, the Jews escaped from the ghetto in Jarosław and turned to Simon and Mary for help: "We took them just because they asked for it. We lived very well, for we were such distant neighbors. (...) Mom took pity and we took them," says their daughter Aleksandra Sawa in an interview for the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews. "At first, only one of them came. Mom told him where they might be hiding and he hid there too. It was not possible to hide at home. It was very dangerous to keep them at home."

Former neighbors organized a hiding place for themselves in the straw in the stable and quilts, pillows and crockery were brought there. Maria washed their clothes and brought them food hidden in a pigs' bucket. “And there was a ladder near the hideout where they were, and when mom knocked the ladder they would go out and take the food," describes Aleksandra Fołta in an interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. "I would go  to see them from time to time (...)and tell them what was going on in the village and we would gossip a little bit. We were like a family," she continues.

 Nesia’s family came to us with their Jewish friend, Doncia. At first she was hiding in a residence. "If someone came, she hid behind the wardrobe, which was placed diagonally in the room. If someone stayed there longer, she sat there and waited, " says Aleksandra Sawa. After some time, for security reasons, Doncia moved to the stable.

Neighbors, friends and even married daughters of farmers did not know that the Fołtas were hiding escapees from the ghetto. Jews could not leave the hideout during the day. "We were happy that they were alive. They were happy and so were we. We were careful, but here you are! Someone reported, someone spied or something. We do not know,"  stresses Sawa.

On May 25, 1944 the Germans came to search the farm. Sawa does not know whether the reason for this was a denunciation, or whether it was just a coincidence that they surrounded their house: "As we saw that they were going to search the place, we already felt, we knew what it all was about." Maria Fołta and her children hid in the maturing crop. Szymon stayed to show the Germans around the farm.

"[The Germans] gathered about thirty peasants living in the village to come with pitchforks, because there was a lot of straw, there was a slope. They were scattering the straw and pulling the Jews out. These poor people. Because they felt that there was somebody in the straw. Before that [someone] shot at this straw and the Jews began to wail so that they made sure that there was someone in the straw (...) They went up the stairs. And up the ladder. And then they shot them," reports Aleksandra.

When the landlord was ordered to fetch a shovel to bury the bodies, he started to run. "Then he wanted to flee so badly and they shot him and killed him. Maybe if he had decided to escape earlier, he could have escaped, " wonders his daughter.

During the last two months of the war, Maria Fołta and her three children were hiding in different places.

They returned to their home after the liberation. Then Aleksandra went to her sister in Bielsko – Biała, where she lives to this day.

The bodies of the murdered Jews were moved to the cemetery in Jarosław after the war.

 "It was a terrible blow. It is impossible to tell what that all was like. Only two months were left till the end of the war. We could have saved so many people," sums up Aleksandra Sawa. " Even now I sometimes prayed for them and I did not know how to pray. The way the Catholics do? I do not know how Jews pray," she adds.

Bibliography

  • Waślicka Zofia, Interview with Aleksandra Sawa, 25.05.2009