The Cabaj Family

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Story of Rescue - The Cabaj Family

Jan Cabaj was an officer in the Polish Army. In the years 1930–1938 his regiment was stationed in Kołomyja (Ukr. Kolomyia), Stanisławów (Ukr. Ivano-Frankivsk) Province. Jan lived there with his wife Tatiana and daughters Janina and Antonina.

Their neighbours were the Grünberg family: Baruch and Freda (1898–1943) (née Zuckerman) with their children Miriam and Karol. Janina Cabaj was friends with Miriam Grünberg, as they had attended the Queen Hedwig School together. Antonina was friends with Miriam's brother, Karol.

In 1938 the Cabaj family moved to 5 Wiejska Street in Garwolin, where Lieutenant Jan Cabaj commanded the supply platoon of the 1st Mounted Rifle Regiment. Under German occupation, Jan was active in the resistance movement. His daughters belonged to the Home Army as well: Janina worked under the pseudonym “Płomień” in the “Gołąb” district.

In 1941 the Grünberg family was relocated to the Kołomyja ghetto, and then to the ghetto in Stanisławów, Freda's home town. Her husband and son Karol had died in unknown circumstances. Freda and her daughter were captured during the Aktion in the Stanisławów ghetto in November 1942. They were taken into transport. They managed to jump off the train, but Freda broke both of her legs in the fall and was unable to run any more. In their testimonies, both the Cabaj daughters stated that Miriam jumped off a train to Auschwitz, but it is more likely that she was in a transport of Jews from Stanisławów to the Bełżec death camp.

Freda persuaded her daughter to try to save herself. Miriam reached the Cabaj family, asking for shelter. She had a birth certificate issued in the name of Helena Balkowska, which she had received from her friends. She lived with the Cabaj family from January 1943. “While hiding in our house she did not pay us anything; all of her clothing and food, we provided” said Janina, interviewed in 1988 by the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland.

Miriam worried that extending her stay would endanger the Cabaj family. She advertised in a newspaper that she was seeking a job. In response, she received an offer from the military police station in Dworkowa Street in Warsaw. Although the Cabajs pleaded with her to stay, Miriam left for Warsaw in early 1943. Once there, she obtained a Kennkarte with her birth certificate.

She worked as a kitchen help and a cleaning lady. She was also provided with lodging. “She always came to spend Sundays with us in Garwolin”, recounts Antonina. The period of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was particularly difficult for Miriam. She asked the women coming to work about any news from the burning ghetto and wept. She was suspected of being of Jewish descent, but she managed to convince the Germans that she was Polish.

In August 1943 Jan Cabaj was arrested by the Germans for his work in the underground, and in December 1943 was transported to the Lublin Castle prison. He was executed in April 1944.

In October 1944 Miriam Grünberg left Warsaw along with the military police. In early March 1945 she was liberated by American troops in Ahlen, Westphalia. After the war she settled in Castrop-Rauxel in Germany, where she married Helmut Sander (1921–1993). In 1947 she managed to make contact with the Cabaj family. Afterwards, she kept in touch with them by letter, and also sent them money. She had visits from Janina and her family.

Both daughters of Jan and Tatiana Cabaj lived in Warsaw after the war. Janina worked as head of the ward at Prof. Orłowski Hospital in Warsaw.

In 1991 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award the title of Righteous Among the Nations to Jan Cabaj, his wife Tatiana and daughters Janina Pawliszewska and Antonina Wojciechowska.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, 4990