The Działoszyński family
Story of Rescue - The Działoszyński family
Mira (Maria) Ledowski-Krum was born in 1937 in a Jewish family living in Tłumacz near Stanisławów (today’s Ukraine). After the war had broken out and the Soviet Army had entered the area, Mira lived with her parents and siblings on the farm owned by her grandmother, Anna Hartenstein née Haber. German troops seized Tłumacz in 1941, but for a short period after that, the inhabitants of the farm still enjoyed relative freedom and were allowed to live outside of the local ghetto in exchange for supplying German soldiers with food.
Soon afterwards, however, Mira’s family was sent to the ghetto in Tłumacz. When the Jewish quarter was liquidated towards the end of 1942, Mira’s entire family, as well as grandma Anna Hartenstein together with her daughter Lula and Lula’s son, were killed in the death camp in Bełżec. Mira, her father, her mother Adela, and Adela’s brother, Lonek, managed to avoid the liquidation by hiding in a hiding place in the attic of a neighbouring house. Adela took an infant boy to the hideout, but tragically, the child was strangled so that the hiding place would not be compromised. Germans performed searches in all houses, but they did not discover the Krums’ hideout. Thanks to the help of a Polish soldier, who, as Mira remembers, was referred to as “the Bear,” the family managed to escape from Tłumacz.
Mira, her parents, and Lonek moved to the open ghetto in Buczacz, but they had to flee again once the process of deportation from the ghetto was initiated. They ended up in the locality of Beremiany. There, they received help and shelter from the Dwoliński family – a married couple with two children. Mr Dwoliński ran a mill. For over 10 months, the family hid the Krums, Lonek Hartenstein and several other Jews in the basement of their house. A part of the room was concealed with wooden boards and bags filled with grain. The Polish family took good care of those in hiding – they supplied them with food and took out dross. On Christmas Eve in 1942, Mrs Dwolińska invited people hiding in the basement to join them for dinner.
The living conditions in the hideout, however, were quite dire. There was no light in the basement and everything was damp. Despite those difficulties, Adela still believed they would survive. She took care of her daughter and always managed to come up with an activity or a game for her to learn something. “My mother’s methods were ingenious. […] It never really occurred to me that I was living in a basement. […] She created a sort of a magical world which did not restrict me at all. […] I had plasticine to play with, because you could easily scrape clay off of the walls and mould it into animals, make various creatures and birds. […] From the early morning until the very end of the day my mother, who had been trained in teaching young children, would tell me marvellous stories and teach me poems,” Mira reminisced in an interview given to the POLIN Museum in 2015. She is still able to remember and recite the poems of Tuwim which she learned by heart during the war.
Mira really wanted to learn to read and asked her mother to teach her. “My mother then replied that it was out of the question. «You will learn to read when the war is over. You will attend first grade and learn to read and write together with other children. I don’t want you to go to school and do nothing but be bored.» I found it very unpleasant. […] But looking at it now, as a teacher, I understand that my mum helped me to look beyond the present: when I get out of here and go to school, I will learn to read. I won’t be staying here forever.”
One day, someone denounced the Dwoliński family and a search was performed in their house. It was a miracle that the Jews hiding in the basement were not discovered. The owner of the house asked the Krum family to leave. The risk was too high.
While the family was wandering around in search of another hiding place, they were denounced by a Polish forest officer and Mr Krum was killed right before the eyes of his wife and daughter. Those events took place on 30 April 1944. Adela’s brother, Lonek, joined a partisan unit.
Adela and Mira were left alone. The mother created a new identity for her daughter – from then on, she was called Marysia Kowalik and was the daughter of an officer of the Polish Army, an internee in a POW camp. She also taught her Catholic prayers and rites, which was supposed to make the story and Polish identity of the girl more believable. Adela had been brought up in an assimilated family, had attended the Teaching Academy of the Sisters of Notre Dame and had had many Polish friends, so she was very familiar with Christian prayers and customs.
The mother and the daughter wandered from village to village. After 7 or 10 days, they ended up in the house of Antonina Działoszyńska in the village of Puźniki near Koropiec. Antonina, a widow, lived there with her children – Jan and Czesława. Mira reminisces: “The door opened and there stood a woman who had never seen us before and vice versa. And she said: «A guest is a blessing from God, please come in. If Holy Mary has protected you so far and led you to my house, it means that I have the responsibility of helping and protecting you.»” Antonina decided to take Mira and Adela in, even though she suspected they were Jewish. She told her children that Adela was a cousin of her deceased husband from Buczacz.
The local parish priest helped to get fake documents for the hiding women. Both Adela and Mira helped Działoszyńska with housework and farmwork and attended Sunday masses in the local church together with the entire family. When Germans organised searches in the village, Czesława and Jan would take Mira outside of the house and Adela would go out into the fields or to the nearby forest. The woman would also provide additional education to Antonina’s children.
In August 1944, a German soldier moved into Działoszyńska’s house. One day he called Mira and sat her on his lap. “I was sitting right there on his lap when he embraced me and told me he had a daughter just like me. And that she wore braids, too. And then he asked me something and I answered in Jewish. He suddenly stood up and went to his room. My mother then said, without even raising her head: «He must have gone to get his revolver.» But he returned with an envelope and said: «This is a letter to my wife. If Germans catch you or take you to Vienna, I asked her to take care of you.»”
Mira and Adela survived the war. Thanks to the help of priest Tabaczkowski from Tłumacz, so did Adela’s youngest brother, Wilhelm Hartenstein, who had been given the false name of Roman Szelożyński. He now lives in Gdańsk and still uses this name.
After the war, having briefly lived in Monasterzyska and Jelenia Góra, Mira and Adela moved to Wrocław. Mira enrolled for the Polish Studies programme at the university, but following an anti–Semitic incident which took place in the school in 1957, she dropped out after three semesters and migrated to Israel.
The women did not keep in touch with Działoszyńska and her children. It was after many years that Mira managed to find the family of Działoszyńska. On her initiative, Antonina was given the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Mira Ledowski–Krum worked as a school teacher for 36 years; she taught Hebrew and the Bible. She currently teaches Polish in the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv. As she herself underlines, she has always had warm feelings towards Poland.