The Durko Family

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Story of Rescue - The Durko Family

Janusz Durko, whose father was an avowed socialist, was raised among leftist activists, and Janusz had listened in to the adults’ political discussionsalmost since birth. This contributed to hisstrong conviction that it is inconceivable to reject people on the basis of their ethnicity.

He was studying history at the University of Warsaw at a time which, in his own words, brought shame on the institution. He witnessed ‘ghetto benches’ overseen by the youth of the National Radical Camp, who carried clubs fitted with razor-blades. To show his solidarity with the persecuted minority, he would sit on the benches ‘designated’ for Jewish students, and was also on the run from the nationalist squads, along with Jews.

When the war broke out he was working with his father at Warsaw’s Construction Company (Społeczne Przedsiębiorstwo Budowlane - SPB). A number of Jews were employed by the SPB.

“No, they did not hide. They walked around openly. … It’s astonishing, you don’t hear anything about that, nobody writes about it ... that Warsaw had anything like this enclave, a closed environment, where no one even considered going to the ghetto. … all of them survived.”

What is even more astounding, in light of the other accounts, is that no one sought to denounce their co-workers. They were not the only ones who could count on the Durkos’ aid. Numerous fugitives from the ghetto spent at least some time in the apartments occupied by Janusz and his wife, Janina. Janina Durko would help them find employment, and when someone was in danger of being denounced by the neighbours, the Durkos would seek out other hideouts: another apartment, the offices of the SPB, or a specially-prepared garage on Senatorska Street.

Most of those they looked after lived through the occupation. Mr Durko remembers them all. He felt the deaths of those who did not survive, as strongly as if they were the deaths of members of his own family.

Between 1951 and 2003, Janusz Durko was the director of the Historical Museum of Warsaw. He has been decorated with over thirty Polish and foreign orders for his merits in the field of culture.

An article from the album Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Recalling Forgotten History, Łódź 2009

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