The Bachul Family

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Story of Rescue - The Bachul Family

Moving a Child in a Dangerous Situation

The attempt to hide a child outside the ghetto was undertaken probably in October 1942 when, in the Kraków ghetto, the next transport was due to take Jews to the extermination camps. We suppose that, at that time, the little girl’s parents, Maria and Maks Glaser, came to the conclusion that the child’s life was under threat and that survival in the ghetto, with a child, would not be possible. So they began to look for the possibly of placing the girl somewhere on the Aryan side.

In the first instance, they probably contacted my grandmother, my mother’s mother-in-law, Antonina Siwiec, who was a business contact in pre-War times (Antonina Siwiec ran a sewing room and the Glaser family dealt in textiles).

Maria Glaser (Miriam) took her eighteen month old daughter out of the ghetto in a bag after giving her some sleeping medication. […] After a certain time, my mother, Janina Siwiec, took the child to her family in Bystra, certainly because hiding her there and providing her with food during the occupation would be easier in the provinces than in a big city. […]

They went together with Miriam, my mother […] carrying the little girl […] in her arms. They entered the train station separately so as not to attract attention. Mum often recalled the drama which took place in the main Kraków railway station. The child cried because she was being carried by a strange woman, the child’s mother […] walking behind them. When they came near a group of railway workers, one of them, pointing at my mother, said loudly, “Look, she’s carrying a Jewish child”. (At that time, people were sensitive to such situations, correctly idientifying Jews seeking shelter.)

Mum stopped, told them to shut up and maybe even attacked them with an umbrella or a handbag. That act of self-defence worked because they then fell silent. It’s possible that the railway workers couldn’t then see why they should be endangering a child and that woman. My mother, with the child, and Miriam travelled in separate carriages to Bystra and to safety.

Caring for the Child in Bystra

[…] Maria Glaser (Miriam) stayed in the Bachul home in Bystra, with her daughter, for only a short time (probably just a few hours). She then returned to the ghetto in Kraków. The child remained in Bystra under the care of my grandmother and grandfather, Ludwik and Stanisława, together with my mother’s two younger sisters, Anna and Maria (my mother returned to Kraków where she was living at that time).

The unexpected appearance of a strange child could have aroused suspicions so, for that reason, they told neighbours that the child was my mother’s, born out-of-wedlock. As she grew up, the little girl considered her carers as her granny and aunties. She was looked after as one of their own. She went everywhere with the family – into the fields, on visits to neighbours and she played with the other children.

The little girl even went with the others to church and learned the prayers, because this was essential. The Germans also used this method […] to recognise Jewish children. It was enough for a child to know the prayers and to go to church […] There was one situation when a German from the Gestapo came to the house and checked her knowledge of Catholic prayers. Sara recited the prayers correctly and, in that way, remained safe.

The Return of the Mother of the Hidden Child

As the War was ending, Maria Glaser was in Auschwitz, and then was transported to the camp in Buchenwald, where she awaited liberation. Following liberation, Miriam came to Bystra to collect Sara […], along the way from Kraków to Bystra, she met her relative, Róża. We don’t know for certain when that was, probably in the autumn of 1945 […].

When she returned from the camps, Miriam was in a very bad physical condition, totally unrecognisable […], my mother’s sisters […] recall. The child didn’t recognise her own mother and didn’t want to go to her […], the little girl held on to grandma and begged not to give her back. In [19]42, Sara was eighteen months old, so that in [19]45, she was four and a half years old, almost five, and had absolutely no memory of her mother. The little girl was finally convinced and only agreed to go with her when Miriam gave her sweets.

Of  what happened to them later, we know that Miriam and her daughter lived temporarily in Wrocław and then later in a transit camp in Hofgeismar in Germany. She then left for Israel. She took the little girl to Israel.