The Ciszewski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Ciszewski Family

When the ghetto was set up in Stanisławów, Janina Ciszewska, Ryszard’s mother, hid 11 people in their house.

“Mum said, ‘An acquaintance will be staying with us for two or three days.’ So first, there was one person, then a second, then a third one with a child... I saw gallows each time I went into town. There were notes attached saying: ‘These people hid Jews,’and ‘Here are the Jews they were hiding’, to show what they would do to us for hiding Jews.”       

Since 1942, they had all been living in a 14 square metre room darkened with a curtain. They did not use the light and tried to remain kosher. They washed in water Ryszard brought. They spent two years living like this, giving Janina their valuables, which she would then sell to buy food. She bought food in various places to avoid raising suspicion with buying so much shopping. Janina was especially skilled in gaining the trust of Germans. Once, she invited one for dinner. She introduced to him Augusta Schenkelbach, whom she was hiding, as her German friend, because she spoke fluent German. Malwina Stern was introduced as her maid, while the rest remained in hiding.         

During a search, Ryszard managed to send his younger brother to their grandmother. With a gun held to his head he said, “Only my mum, me, and my brother live here.” The soldier believed him.     

“When the Russians passed, silence reigned. The Germans were gone. Everybody went out into the backyard for first time since they went into hiding. They stood about in the backyard and looked at the sun. The weather was fair, it was five maybe six o’clock in the afternoon, and the setting sun went pink.”       

All the Jews they had hid, survived the war. After the war, Janina was arrested and charged with receiving German guests during the occupation. She was released thanks to Dawid and Bronisława Berler’s intervention. She and her son settled in Łódź, in an apartment donated by Malwina and Szmerl Stern, who emigrated to Mexico. Janina died in 1984.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Chełstowska Agata, Interview with Ryszard Ciszewski, 28.03.2009