The Mikitów family

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Story of Rescue - The Mikitów family

Before the war Józef and Olga Mikitów lived in Ternopil at 40 Wertepowa St. During the German occupation Józef smuggled food into the ghetto in Ternopil for compensation. Carter Froim Lubianker took part in the practice – he was Józef's friend from before the war and was responsible for taking out waste from the ghetto. He transported beef, bread and flour prepared in advance by Mikitów in the barrel which supposed to contain only waste.

In his statement made in 1983 Mikitów described the smuggling from July 1942 to September 1943: "Every week I provided meat from one cow, which was about 300 kg, about 50 kg of flour and bread [...], it may seem strange and hard to believe that so much food could be passed to the ghetto, but it was possible".

In mid-September 1943 Froim Lubianker and another friend of Józef, Dawid Speizer (horse trader) arrived at the Mikitóws' home asking for shelter. The Zarudzki family whom they had paid for shelter chased them out the next day and took all their belongings.

"They told me they had been taken in by one family, so after much thought I agreed because I felt sorry for those people – life is a good thing for everyone", Józef wrote after the war.

A month later another Jewish friends from before the war arrived at the Mikitóws' home – brothers Karol and Aleksander Ashkenazy Rozencwajg with their wives. They told Józef how they hid in the basement of their house. The former caretaker Andrzej Hyży promised to help them when he was paid in gold dollars. When he was re-housed to another location, he used stones to block the hole that was leading to the hideout and through which he gave food to the Jews. They barely managed to get out.

In his statement, Józef described his initial reluctance to take in more people: "I knew Andrzej Hyży personally from the time before the war. It was very sad because I had already sheltered seven people and I didn't want to agree. I thought I wouldn't be able to feed so many of them. After much begging by the Aszkenazy family I agreed to shelter them". The whole group remained in hiding until March 1944. "All those 11 people in shelter were provided food selflessly and free of any charge".

However, the former caretaker of the Jewish family was a constant source of danger. This was because he knew where the family of Karol Aszkenazy found shelter. Józef wrote: "he demanded that I agree to his request: he would come to me with the Ukrainian police, as he had friends there, and would turn in the Aszkenazy family leading to their death, since he was afraid that if they survived, they would turn him in because he had tried to kill them. I did not let him do that and assured him that I would defend him and no harm would be done to him [...]".

The surviving Jews were initially located in the so-called Recovered Territories. There, in 1949 they made a statement on help received from Mikitóws. Then Karol Aszkenazy went with his family to Israel, Aleksander Rozencwajg immigrated to Canada, and Froim Lublianikier left for New York. After the war the Mikitów family settled in Grodzisk Mazowiecki.

Józef kept in touch with the rescued Jews until 1968.

In 1984 the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Olga and Józef Mikitów the title of Righteous Among the Nations.