The Gierwatowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Gierwatowski Family

Józef and Kazimiera Gierwatowski ran a small farm in Kowalewice Włościańskie, about 80 km from Warsaw. They raised three children - Barbara, Mieczysław and Janusz.

In November 1942,  in nearby Sulkow, the then 12 year old Mieczysław met a frozen and emaciated Jewish boy, his own age, whose appearance aroused in him a deep sympathy. With the agreement of his parents, he invited him home. ”The motivation was to help revive him so that, simply, he could then find his own family (...), so that we could restore his health and so that he could live through the war with us..... ”, explains Barbara Siemborska in an interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Tuwia Lewiński came from Radzymin, where his father Jakub (Jankiel) Lewiński worked oin the slaughterhouse. Tuwia escaped from the ghetto, in the autumn of 1942, together with two of his older siblings – a sister, Rajza, and brother, Lewi Isaak. However, his sister decided to return to the ghetto and, together with her parents and two remaining sisters, Rachela and Riwka, probably perished in the Treblinka death camp to where the inhabitants of the Radzymin ghetto were sent after its liquidation on 3rd October 1942. After escaping the ghetto, Tuwia decided to take the name ”Tomasz (Tomek) Ziemiecki (Ziemniecki”. According to Lewiński, himself, it was ”Zimierski”), because he rcalled that this was the surname of the one Catholic family from amongst his father’s friends.

Tuwia had wandered around the local villages, but people were too scared to give him shelter. In the end, a former landowner, Cywiński, gave him work, but treated him badly, ordering him to sleep in the pigsty. He went hungry and was burdened with superhuman labour.

Tuwia spent about a year and a half with the Gierwatowski family. The whole family, and certain neighbours, helped to hide the boy. When German military police charged into the yard, suspectinng that the boy was Jewish, he fled to a neighbouring farm. Everyone claimed that the child was from a dysfunctional family, that he had a ”wild” character and that was why he had fled. During another search, Barbara hid the boy under her own ample skirt.

During the final months of occupation, when even more German military police appeared in the area, Tuwia was moved to a safer place, to the home of Bronisław Sagan in nearby Wólka Szczawińska. ”We were scared that they would catch him, kill or deport him. It was safe there”, continued Barbara Siemborska.

He stayed with Sagan until the end of the War, until the Zionist Coordination found him and placed him into an orphanage in Łódż. Together with other children, Tuwia left for France and then to Israel where he established his own family. Throughout the entire time, he maintained correspondence contact with the Gierwatowski and Sagan families. In 1989, he travelled to Poland and met with Barbara Siemborska and her brother, Mieczysław. He later hosted them in his own home in Israel.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

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Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 301, 2910
  • Michał Zaidlewicz, Interview with Barbara Siemborska, 11.09.2010
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009