The Bawół Family

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Story of Rescue - The Bawół Family

Felicja Tewel-Bartczak nee Bawół lived with her family in Dębica near Ropczyce, the Cracow Province. Her husband, Maurycy Tewel, who studied law at the Jagiellonian University, worked as an attorney, whilst her father was a Polish Army officer. The family was engaged in helping Jews "in the scope of hiding, looking for save places, installing them, leading them at night to the place they wished to go to," Felicja wrote in her statement in 1989.

In 1942, in answer to the request of her friend, Janina Starakowa nee Kołosiwska, Felicja arranged transporting Sabina Popper, a daughter of Abraham Jehuda and Mina, from Lublin to Warsaw. Sabina, after the death of her closest family in Kamionki III camp, escaped from Podwołoczyska near Tarnopol. Sabina, equipped with the birth certificate of Janina – a former schoolfriend – reached Lublin, where her fiancée was in the prisoner-of-war camp. Felicja sent to Sabina the trusted Bronisław Góralewski, who took her to Warsaw.

In Warsaw, Sabina was cared for by Irena, Felicja's younger sister. Irena moved to Warsaw in 1941 to attend the Polish Red Cross School of Nursery at 6 Smolna Street. She was astonished when Sabina turned up but she decided to help her, even though she shared a room with a friend in the dormitory. She wrote in her statement: "I knew that my refusal to take her to my place would probably mean a death sentence for her. Sabina did not know Warsaw, she had no one except me and no documents except a birth certificate for the name Janina Kołosiwska, and the night was approaching."

Taking advantage of the fact that her roommate was on duty, Irena installed Sabina in her room. Later, she hid her in the wardrobe. On the basis of the birth certificate for the name Janina, Irena obtained documents for Sabina. When Sabina went to offices, she accompanied her wearing a garment resembling that of a German nurse. Thanks to the documents for the name Janina Kołosiwska, Sabina was employed at a German field hospital on Solec Street, and then on Litewska Street, where Irena found a room for  Sabina.

From 1943, Sabina hid together with Tadeusz, her fiancée, who managed to escape from the prisoner-of -war camp in Lublin, in a flat at 21. Puławska Street. During one of the visits, when Irena was accompanied by her fiancée Alfons Mielecki, the Germans came to the apartment looking for a Jew hiding there. They checked whether Alfons was circumcised. They did not find Tadeusz, and Sabina, Irena and Alfons, in spite of threats and violence, did not denounce him.

Irena also hid Maria Korzennikowa from Dębica. At first, she installed her together with Sabina, later she found a room for her on. Niepodległości Street. Maria took up work at the back of the cafe located in the same building.

Irena was supported in all her efforts by her friends from the Home Army. In her statement made in 1989, Irena provides grounds for her activities: "I was shaken by the tragedy of the innocent people treated so cruelly and mass murdered merely because they were Jews." Irena kept in touch with Sabina until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, in which she took part as a Home Army nurse. Tadeusz was killed – he was led outside with other men and shot.

In Dębica, Felicja hid the husband  Maurycy and his sister, Dr. Maria (Mania) Blumental with a three-year-old son Ariel, her friend Łozińska from Borszczów with a son and a tailor, Winter. Before the war, Maria studied at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University and then she worked in Łódź as a teacher.

When Felicja was arrested in January 1943 and released after a strip search, the Gestapo also went to her apartment. Maurycy managed only to remove the documents incriminating the inhabitants of the apartment but they found a blank Kennkarte on him, sent from Warsaw for the needs of the Jews hiding there. Maurycy was arrested but the Gestapo searched the apartment as late as on the following day. By that time, the Jews who remained in the apartment had been led out by Felicja's father. Maria with the child was murdered in the summer 1943, whilst Maurycy, who explained during the investigation that he had found the Kennkartas in the street, died in Auschwitz. Irena was arrested. Maurycy's parents, Jehuda and Pesia, as well as other siblings with their families, lost their lives as well.

After the death of her husband, Felicja, helped by her family, hid Fajga and Dawid Deresiewicz with their son Markus in the flat, which was particularly dangerous due to the fact that a German woman lived with the family and complained about suspicious sounds she heard at night. She was explained then that the sounds were made by rats. In order to obtain food for the hidden Jews, Felicja was selling out her property. Her mother used to cook for them, whilst her father took waste away.

After liberation, the Deresiewicz family went to America, whilst Sabina Popper left to Israel, where she married Fridman and had two sons. Felicja settled down in Łódź. Sabina wrote to the Red Cross for many years, trying to find the sisters who saved her life. Irena Bawół-Mielecka, finishing her statement, mentioned that "after 45 years, only Sabina, today Mrs Friedman, found me and my sister, came into cordial contact with us and disclosed our activity," whilst Felicja, in her statement of 1989, wrote bitterly about the lack of contact with the people she hid after their departure from Poland. She also underlined that "the people, particularly the Polish intelligence, commonly helped gratuitously for purely Christian reasons and for the love of other people."

In 1989, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded the sisters Irena Bawół-Mielecka and Felicja Tewel-Bartczak the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 1453