The Czajkowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Czajkowski Family

Before the war, Szymon and Bronisława Czajkowscy, their son Andrzej with his wife Anna and their children: Walerian, Jan and Bronisława lived in the village of Zręcin in KrosnoCounty, where they ran a small 4-hectare farm. The Jewish family of the Lipiners lived next door: Ignacy and Chaya with their two daughters - Sonia and Erna. The Lipiners had a shop and a small farm.

Andrzej Czajkowskiwent to school with Chaja Lipiner’s brother - Chaskiel Morgenstern, who returned to Poland from Germany after Hitler came to power and settled in his native village. Erna was engaged to Rubin Bergman, who lived in the neighbouring Dukla. The Bergman family ran a bakery in Dukla. Józef Brajtowicz owned a butchery in Krosno.

In 1939 the Lipiners fled from their native village, escaping from the approaching German troops near Przemyśl, but after a short time they returned home. The remained in Zręcin until 1942, when the whole family was deported to the town of Jedlicze in Krosno County. After paying a high bribe, Lipiner began to work at the nearby estate of Żeglce, run by a Volksdeutsch. When the German authorities ordered all the Jews living in the area to move to the ghetto in Krosno, the Lipiners initially managed to avoid this fate. In his testimony, submitted to Yad Vashem in 1962, Ignacy Lipiner wrote: "I did not go to Krosno because I knew that certain death awaits me there." He was caught and beaten, but managed to escape during the transport to Krosno.

Chaya Lipiner and Sonia also fled to the woods. In the same testimony, Lipiner noted: "We wandered around the woods next to Zręcin for about three weeks". Hunger forced them to ask the peasants for help. Chaya Lipiner was afraid to be left at the mercy of the peasants, and finally went to the ghetto in Krosno. Sonia initially remained with her father at the house of Nikodem Waliszka, but because of the difficulties with food supply Ignacy organized her transport to the ghetto. His elder daughter was in Dukla with her fiancé’s family, and then in the ghetto in Rzeszów.

After about 2 months in Zręcin, Lipiner was, as he described in his testimony, "in despair" and went to his neighbours, the Czajkowski family, asking for "temporary shelter". Then, as Ignacy reports, Bronisława Czajkowska "on her own initiative, suggested that I brought my whole family, and she would hide us." Czajkowski’s son – Andrzej - feared for the fate of his family, but Czajkowska did not let Lipiner go, declaring that - according to Ignacy’s words - "he would survive the Nazi occupation with them or they would die together”.

Lipiner brought his wife and younger daughter, who managed to leave the ghetto in Krosno with a group of Jews brought to the labour camp at the airport. He also brought his older daughter, who together with her fiancé jumped out of a train transporting Jews from the ghetto in Rzeszów, as well as his brother-in-law with Brajtowicz, who managed to escape from the labour camp at the airport in Krosno. Ruwen’s two brothers were also brought to the Czajkowski family.

In August 1942 the Germans made a selection in the ghetto in Krosno: about 100 people, including women and children, were deported to the death camp in Bełżec, the elderly and infirm were killed in the nearby woods. Only those considered able to work went back to the ghetto, which was then located along Franciszkańska and Spółdzielcza Street. Jews also lived in the forced labour camp at the military airport near Krosno. There were 300-600 Jews in the new ghetto, including the wives and children of those working in the camp at the military airport and a quarry near Dukla. The ghetto was liquidated in December 1942, and the Jews who were not killed on the spot, were deported to the ghetto in Rzeszów.

According to Walerian Czajkowski, the Jews arrived at his grandparents’ and parents’ house in November 1942. Based on the account of Ignacy and Sonia Lipiner, we can conclude that Ignacy found refuge at their house earlier and his relatives and friends came to the Czajkowski family later. In 1987 Andrzej wrote about the time when there were nine Jews in their home: "At first I was shocked by the enormity of the responsibility and the fear of death penalty, which hung over me and my family. [...] After a sleepless night, I decided to save them." The Jews remained in Czajkowski’s house until the liberation, which took place on 8 September 1945.

Initially,they were placed in a cell near the barn, but their presence there was too dangerous. Therefore, Andrzej, his father Szymon and his son Walerian built a hiding place in the barn in an additional wall. They prepared bunk beds in the hideout. The whole family was involved in looking after those in hiding. It was particularly difficult to obtain food. In the account mentioned above, Andrzej Czajkowski noted: "Life was hard. I frequently went to remote villages and bought grain and various products, I stored food to feed those who were in hiding. My family did not have enough to eat, but they understood that we needed to share what we had." Walerian remembered his grandmother Bronisława’s words that were meant to sooth their hunger: “after all, these are our neighbours and they also want to live”.

At night, grandmother- Bronisława Czajkowska – baked them bread, cooked beans and potatoes. On Yom Kippur she fasted with the Jews, "to make our fasting lighter." During the Passover, Bronisława baked cakes, "a sort of matzo, to show us her good heart”. She always said that “everyone must follow the rules of their religion, and God is one for all" - Ignacy Lipiner wrote in 1962. Bronisława Czajkowska also took care of the sick, for example, she applied cupping glasses.

Jewsremained in hiding during the day, coming out at night under the care of Andrzej, to get some fresh air, wash and wash their underwear. In 1987, Andrzej’s son - Walerian Czajkowski said, "We did everything, because they were like prisoners, they could not move during the day, only at night, and we had to be careful, you had to try to get them some food every day, cook the soup,take it to the barn and give it out, then you had to bring water to wash the bowls and spoons, and this ordeal lasted for over two years".

Czajkowscywere afraid that the hiding place would be discovered. In 1987 Walerian  Czajkowski observed that "the worst enemy was the fear of discovery, which lasted two and a half years." The farm was searched by the Gestapo twice. Andrzej did everything to prevent the discovery of the Jews – for example, he used camphor to mask their odour in the barn and the cemetery, where they went on night walks.

In the lastmonths of hiding the Jews, the position of the Czajkowski family became particularly difficult. A few dozen German soldiers began to quarter near the stables.

After the liberation,the Jews feared for their lives and left Zręcin, went to town and then left Poland. The Lipiners and Rubin Bergman went to Israel, Chaskel Morgenstern went to the United States, Maks Bergman to Canada and Roman Bergman to Sweden.

Sonia Pomerant - the last of the Jews saved by Czajkowscy -  in her statement made in 1987 stressed the huge risk taken by the Czajkowski family "literally day and night their entire family lived in the shadow of death for hiding us."

Czajkowscy selflessly hid nine Jews. According to Ignacy Lipiner, religious motifs played an important role - Bronisława Czajkowska was a deeply religious person.In 1987 Andrzej Czajkowski stressed: "The help that I provided to them, along with my family, was based on humanitarian motives. I knew these people, I felt sorry for them and I could not be indifferent to their fate ".

In Israel,Ignacy Lipiner took a job at a rubber factory. Almost immediately he began to send parcels and money for the Czajkowski family. In 1962 he said: "I am in contact with Mrs. Czajkowska who did more for us than our family could ever do. Czajkowska is a deeply religious and  pious woman. Her dream is to see us and the Holy Land – Israel - before she dies. I would like to meet her request. For a long time I have been scraping every penny to invite Czajkowska to Israel, and at least in this way repay her for what she did for us." In 1963 Czajkowska went to Israel.

In 1963 the Yad Vashem Institute granted Szymon, Bronisława and Andrzej Czajkowscy the  titles of Righteous Among the Nations. In 1987 Walerian learned from his father that "he did not allow grandmother, when she visited Israel in 1963, to give the names of those who helped them to survive the war, because he was afraid we would suffer harassment, as if the order of the world changed". In 1988 the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Walerian Czajkowski and Bronisława Lipińska with the title Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.

  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, M 3115