The Danko Family

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Story of Rescue - The Danko Family

Mieczysław Dańko was born in 1905 in Vilnius, Jadwiga Wojciechowska – in 1904.

Mieczysław was very engaged politically and socially– already as a 15-year-old boy, hiding his age, he joined the 1st Field Artillery Regiment and took part in the war against the Bolsheviks in 1920. From 1936, Mieczysław Dańko lived in Otwock, where he was director of the Finance Department of the Municipal Board. During the September military campaign, he was captured by the Russians,but he escaped from the transport and returned to Otwock.

During the war, he was an activist in the peasant movement, also its underground counterpart. In the years 1941-1943 Mieczysław was the commander of the Warsaw-Right-Bank circuit of the Peasant Battalions and used the pseudonym “Odwaga” (“Courage”). In 1943, he was imprisoned by the gestapo in Nowy Sącz for three months.

The Jewish family  Wecer (Weczer) was starving in the ghetto in Otwock. Only little Maria would sneak out from the ghetto to buy medications, which she then sold to others, thereby earning bread for her brothers Zbyszko and Sasza, and her grandparents. In the fall, the girl’s bare feet got injured. In such a state she met her former neighbor Jadwiga Dańko at a drugstore one evening. "My God, Muszka what happened to you?", asked Jadwiga, then took the girl to her home on Reymont Street.

After many years, Miriam Thau (Maria Wecer) mentioned in the testimony for Yad Vashem: "That evening was fed and my injured legs were washed and dressed. The Dańko family – Jadwiga and her husband, Mieczysław and sister Nina – listened, horrified, to my account about poverty in the ghetto. It was a time when people were already lying on the streets swollen from hunger. In the morning, when I thanked and I wanted to go back, Jadwiga said to me solemnly: "Do not go back again to the ghetto, Muszka." Once again, I thanked and explained that I could not stay with her – “Sasza is there waiting for me, he will die without me”. The Dańkos could not take him home. He was circumcised, and they had two children whom they did not want to expose to danger. On the same day, I brought Sasza a cart full of food. From then on,for weeks I would bring him meals every day. "

With the help of a parish priest, Ludwik Wolski, Maria Wecer received a birth certificate forthe name Laskowiecka (it was the name of her mother’s first husband). Little Sasza also received a similar birth certificate. Then, Mieczysław Dańkowith a clerk from themunicipal councilin Otwock, Mr. Grzywacz, took Sasza away from the ghetto and placed him in a convent in Świder (which probably belonged to theSt. Elizabeth convent) as a "Christian child, who had been circumcised by his Jewish caregivers."

One day Tamara Wecer,  the children’s mother appeared at the Dańkos‘ house. She  had previously left Otwock, seeking contact with her husband and ways to escape. And again, Mieczysław Dańko helped her. He managed to get her an ID with the name of her first husband. The Dańkos also helped the whole family to find accommodation. The mother took little Sasza from the monastery. However, he died soon. Years later,Maria Thau says "he was dying before my eyes. He died at night, holding my hand. His last words were: "Musia, give me bread".  On his death certificate issued on October 20, 1942 by Rev.Wolski, Aleksandra Szpakowska, another Righteous of Otwock, signed herself as a witness.

Tamara, Maria and Zbigniew Wecer survived the war. In 1946,the children’s father, Rudolf Wecer, returned to Poland. Zbigniew went to Israel in 1948, Maria and her mother did in 1958.

Later, Mieczysław Danko married twice more. In 1951 he married Krystyna Chłond.
After the war, Mieczysław Dańko was an active member of the peasant movement, first in cooperation with the Lublin Government. In the period from September 19th to November 30th, 1944, he was even Vice–President of Warsaw, on the recommendation of the Peasant Party. It was him who organized the first National Council in Otwock, however, he soon became disillusioned. He was imprisoned by the Communist authorities three times. The first time, for his suggestion put forward during the Peasant Party leadership meeting. He suggested the coalition with the Communists should be broken. Following that, straight from the office of Vice–President of Warsaw, he landed in strict jail at the Lublin Castle for eight months. Then he became the director of the People‘s Publishing House in Warsaw. But in the years 1948 – 1950 he was kept in a labor camp in Mielęcin, on a false charge of illegal paper trade(and later he tried hard to clear himself of the charge; he lived to see his rehabilitation only in the 1970s). He was arrested again and convicted in November 1952 - "for an attempt to use violence to change the socialist and democratic system of the Polish State by being a member of an illegal organization." He was released in 1956 under an amnesty for political prisoners.

His letters to high officials of the People’s Republic of Poland, including President Bierut and theAttorneyGeneral, in which he carefully listed all the harm he had suffered, have been preserved. The letters, however, remained unanswered. Mieczysław Dańko, discouraged from any public activity,took care of his family and worked in a cooperative movement, but remained a member of the United Peasant Party. He died in 1982.

The post-war fate of Jadwiga Dańko is unknown . It is certain that she died in 1968 and was buried in Gdynia as Jadwiga Calińska-Szpak, in a common grave with her sister, Nina Sas-Klechniowska.

We publish this article courtesy of Zbigniew Nosowski, chairman of the Social Committee of the Jews of Otwock and Karczew

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