Balwierz Jozef

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Story of Rescue - Balwierz Jozef

Józef Balwierz lived with his family in Kraków. In the year 1937 he graduated and began his studies at the Faculty of Mining of the University of Mining in Kraków.

When the war started, he had to look for a job. His employment as supervisor of dismantling of a brick factory included in its scope the reform of a residential building, where  he met and befriended a Jewish couple, Zofia and Stefan Bross. This acquaintance led him to know  Zofia’s  Bross cousins: the family Zofia Liebeskind and her daughters Irena and Rita, whom he helped providing hiding in his family house.

The Liebeskind family was living  in Lviv; the father Samuel Liebeskind died in 1941, after the occupation of the city by Germans; he was caught in a street roundup. Zofia Liebeskind with Irena and Rita  were given shelter in Józef’s Balwierz family house in Prokocim-Kraków, where they were provided with  “new” personal documents to enable them to survive the period of war. Irena and Józef took a liking to each other and married after the war.

Later, their cousin, Ilka Bardach (m. Edel) and her brother Ryszard Bardach came from Lviv and were helped and hidden  by Józef. He helped  also other persons until they received their new documents.

In July 1943, Zofia Liebeskind, in order to avoid the oppressors in Kraków, volunteered for work in Vienna. Also Irena went to Vienna, where she worked in a family house. Rita stayed in Kraków and worked for a family, both were using their new names and surnames – Irena was Hela; Rita was Misia.

At the end of 1943, Józef also went to Vienna, to be near to Irena and got employed in a workshop of crude oil industry in Dobermannsdorf.

After the end of the war Irena and Józef returned to Kraków. They found Irena’s sister Rita and cousin Ilka. Neither their mother Zofia Liebeskind nor Ilka’s brother Ryszard survived the war.

The family Stefan and Zofia Bross died in Bełżec. After the war, Irena and Józef got married. They finished their studies and after several years in Kraków, moved, in 1958,  to Brazil; they finally settled in São Paulo.

Józef was awarded the title of the Righteous Among the Nations in 2007. He said in his address, after receiving the diploma and medal: “I do not like to remember the sad times of war but the fact is that those were the  times which left their mark on us forever. It is  tragic to look on injustice. The help I was able to provide  was my own reaction against  injustice and crime”.

Józef Balwierz died in São Paulo in 2011. Of the persons whom he helped to survive the war, there are living now his wife Irena and sister-in-law Rita.

Bibliography

  • Józef Jan Balwierz, Od Krakowa do Brazylii. Wspomnienia, Kraków 1996