Bojarska Stefania

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Story of Rescue - Bojarska Stefania

Stefania Bojarska lived in Bronowice at the outskirts of Lublin at ul. Drewniana 18. Her husband, who died in 1941, was a railwayman. Stefania met Józef Reznik during the German occupation. They met when Józef was being led out from a camp for Jewish prisoners of war in Lublin to perform forced labour. Reznik graduated from Tarbut, a Hebrew secondary school in Grodno, and was a butcher by profession. In 1936, he completed mandatory military service and graduated from a school training non-commissioned officers in Suwałki. In 1939, he fought in the September campaign and was captured by the Germans in Radom. From there, he was transported to Keisersteinbruch, a camp for prisoners of war in Austria, and then to Moosburg near Munich and Krems an der Donau in North-Eastern Austria, eventually ending up in a camp for prisoners of war in Görlitz (Zgorzelec).

At the beginning of 1941, Reznik found himself in a camp for Jewish prisoners of war in Lublin at ul. Lipowa 7. The camp was liquidated as part of a bloody operation called Erntefest (harvest festival) on 3 November 1943 and its inmates were transported to the Majdanek camp. “We got to field 5 where an orchestra played all the time on one side and machine guns played a song of their own on the other side, killing people en masse”.

Reznik, who stated that he was a carpenter by profession, was among the several hundred of men and women chosen for work. In November 1943, he was, together with a group of 61 Jews, transported to Borki near Chełm where Jewish prisoners were forced to burn the bodies of other people who had been murdered – Soviet prisoners of war and Jews, including Jewish children from Hrubieszów, whom they had to disinter from mass graves. One of the graves was never sealed up - the Germans kept bringing more and more bodies to be placed in it.

The Jews working in Borki were mostly former military men. They decided to make an escape but few of them managed to flee.

Józef was among those who succeeded. A priest looked after him for a short time. After that, he was helped by Polish friends he managed to make in Lublin while he was kept at Lipowa where Jewish prisoners had to perform work outside of the camp. However, no one was willing to risk hiding him for long.

Reznik turned to Bojarska who, according to what he wrote in his statement for Yad Vashem in 1964: “She gave me an extraordinary welcome, she gave me the clothes of her deceased husband, she treated my aching leg with compresses, and, most importantly, she helped me get to get rid of the lice which infested me”.

Reznik slept in a bed hidden under a table, in a small room without any windows. In his statement, he described his hiding place as follows: “Initially, I hid in the attic during the day but when the winter weather became freezing, I stayed in the apartment itself. I performed various domestic chores by day”.

Reznik also looked after a grandchild of Bojarska – Mikołaj, aged 4 – when his grandmother went to work. The child’s mother – Wanda Kopczyńska – would sometimes come to visit. When she saw Józef for the first time “she burst out crying, gave me some cigarettes and thought that it was quite natural that I stayed at her mother’s house”, Reznik recalled. However, due to the fact that Kopczyńska traded with the Germans, her mother concluded that hiding Józef any longer was too dangerous and asked him to leave her house.

On 20 June 1944, having spent several months in hiding with Bojarska, Reznik went on to join guerilla resistance in Lasy Parczewskie. He came back to Lublin after its liberation, in July 1944. He was questioned before a Polish-Soviet committee investigating the Majdanek crime and took part in an on-site visit to Borki. He joined the Civic Militia. In 1945, he married Nina Herszman (1921–2003).

A year later, they went to Germany and, from there, tried to reach Palestine on board of The Exodus in 1947. They settled in Israel in 1948. In 1961, Józef was a witness in the trial of Adolf Eichman in Jerusalem and, in 1962, he testified in Heilbronn in a trial against Gestapo men from Borki.

He maintained friendly relations with Stefania Bojarska. Her granddaughter Jolanta Kopczyńska was told that it was Reznik who called for a midwife right before she was born in 1945. He continued to send parcels with oranges to Stefania for many years. During the ceremony for awarding the Righteous Among the Nations title to Bojarska in 2015, Yaakov, Reznik’s son, handed a bag of oranges, a symbolic token of his gratitude, over to Jolanta Kopczyńska.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, M.31.2/12464
  • Gilbert Martin, The Holocaust. A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War, New York 1987