The Cieślicki family

enlarge map

Story of Rescue - The Cieślicki family

Jan and Stefania Cieślicki lived in Stryj at ul. Kolejowa. Jan was a carpenter and Stefania maintained the household and looked after their two children. Jan came to know Samuel (Szmuel) Brenner (1909–1943?) while at work and agreed to take in his only child, Gideon, born in June 1941. Jan’s wife Stefania consented to this. “We’ve already had two children of our own and I gladly accepted a third one. I was aware of what the consequences for me and my family could be if we were to be denounced. However, since I decided to take that step, I wanted the child to be safe so that he could be returned to his parents one day. Gideon was a year and a half old back then and we called him Genio. No one knew the truth and we told everyone he was our child”.

Shortly before the complete liquidation of the ghetto in Stryj on 22 August 1943, Samuel left a letter addressed to his brother Eliezer who was in Palestine with the Cieślicki family. In the latter, dated 7 March 1943, he wrote of the death of their mother, Helena Brenner (née Kron), and asked Eliezer to look after Gideon after the end of the war: “departing from this world, I would like to be sure that you will care for my son and raise him to be an honest and productive Jew so that he could serve our Motherland which I myself am to see no more. May you never allow the only treasure left to me to feel that he has no parents”. He also asked his brother to “reward those fine and honest folk who, at a time of great tragedy, took in a child of mine. They did it for remuneration, true, but they still risked their lives in the process”. In the spring of 1945, the Cieślicki family gave the child to a Mister Majer who introduced himself as a relative of Gideon and who was most likely a member of the Zionist Coordination; he presented letters confirming that he was from the family to the child’s carers. Stefania was in a difficult situation back then. “My husband was very ill then and he did not work. We lived in poverty and I relinquished the child to the man in the hope that Gideon would have a better life that way”. Gideon left for Israel. He graduated from a university there and worked as a veterinarian.

Stefania settled in Przemyśl. After many years, she wanted to discover the truth about what happened to the child she saved: “I still don’t know what fate befell the child and I would really like to know that as I am already quite old and I don’t know if I will have a chance”.

The Yad Vashem Institute awarded Stefania Cieślicka and Jan Cieślicki the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1991.