Hromiak Maria

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Story of Rescue - Hromiak Maria

Before World War Two Maria Hromiak used to work as a nanny in the house of a solicitor Izydor Preminger and his wife Emilia née Celer. During Nazi occupation she manager to get out of the Brody ghetto their 4-year-old daughter, Regina Paulina Preminger called Renia. She took care of the girl as of her own daughter. After the war, since her parents had been murdered, Irena adopted the orphaned Jewish girl.

Maria Hromiak was born in Boratyń in Ukraine, the eleventh, and youngest child of Helena and Bazyli. When she was 7 years old her parents died of typhoid. Since then, the girl stayed with various relatives, having no chance to get any education. Finally, she was sent to work in the estate of Izydor Preminger’s parents, located near Brody. About 1926 she started working for Izydor Preminger and his newly-wed wife in Radomsk where the couple had moved. After the children had been born (Bronuś in 1930 and Regina Paulina on May 28th, 1938) Maria became their nanny. As is related by the rescued in her interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Maria Hromiak was very attached to her employers and their children.

Afer the outbreak of the World War Two the family moved to Brody. Since January 1942 the Premingers had to stay in the ghetto created by  Germans. Maria was left at the ‘Aryan side’. „Later on, when it turned out they had no food, they were cold for lack of proper clothing, mum [Maria Hromiak] somehow managed (…) to get to them some warm clothes, something to eat, e.g, I know that once she brought them a sack of sugar, and on another occasion some flour, and some groats” – recalls the rescued in her interview.

Food for herself and for the Premingers was bought by Maria with the money she obtained through selling possessions of her former employers.

When the news started spreading about liquidation of the ghetto, „at one time when mum came to visit my parents (…) she took my hand and we left the ghetto together” – says the rescued. From that moment Regina functioned as Irena Hromiak, Maria’s daughter. Maria taught her Catholic prayers and had her baptized. For safety reasons Maria changed their place of residence several times.

In the fall of 1942, during the so-called „action”, 12-year-old Bronek Preminger ran away from the ghetto and knocked at night on the door of his former nanny. Izydor, who was ouside the ghetto during its liquidation, also came here. The other members of the Preminger family were deported to a death camp, either in Bełżec or in Sobibór.

Since sheltering a Jewish boy and a man in Maria Hromiak’s appartment meant enormous risk, they moved to a farm of a Ukrainian peasant who was paid for keeping them. Every month Maria visited their host and paid him for sheltering the two Jews. Around December 1943 he denounced them to the Gestapo. „Mum nearly went crazy, it affected her so much she was close to committing suicide. She didn’t do it only on my account, because she knew what would have happened to me, had she done something like that.” – recounts Irena Szczurek.

At the beginning of 1944 Maria ran out of the money she got by selling Preminger’s belongings. In order to support herself and the child, she found a job as a cook in German army barracks. After German capitulation she settled in Opole together with her adopted daughter. Their financial situation was modest. For 10 years Maria worked very hard as a bricklayer’s assistant at a cement plant. After an accident she got a disablement pension.

After the war it turned out that a sister of Irena’s mother, Serafina, survived and emigrated to Israel. She firmly demanded that Maria should put Irena in her care. Maria refused to do so. „If it came to that, if they were to send me away, I would have never agreed, because I absolutely could not live without my mother.” – claims Irena. She met her aunt in Vienna in 1975.

Irena learned about her true origin when she was about 8. „I learned this from some ‘friendly’ people who told me I was a little Jewess. But there were also some other people, not so subtle, who called me ugly names. It did happen. And it was very unpleasant for me, very.” – she recalls. Only about 10 years later Irena and Maria began talking openly about the past.

In 1960 Irena Szczurek gor married and moved to Łódź. „I felt ashamed when somebody said I was Jewish. I found it shameful, like an insult, and it only changed after I got married, owing to my husband.” – says Irena Szczurek. In 1961 she graduated from the Wrocław University as a mathematics major. All her adult life she worked as a teacher. She has two children: a son and a daughter. Maria Hromiak died in 1991 at the age of 81.

Bibliography

  • Opawska Ewa, Intreview with Irena Szczurek, rescued by Maria Hromiak, 6.04.2010