The Jagiełowicz family

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Story of Rescue - The Jagiełowicz family

Olga Jagiełowicz, her daughter Danuta Szklarek and her small son lived in Legionów at ul. Cegielnia 9. The one-family home had a reasonable sized garden and was located near the edge of town. Olga purchased it after her husband, a non-commissioned officer in the Polish Army, died at the age of 30. Danuta’s husband, also a soldier, fought in the September campaign near Grodno and Wilno, and was then interned in the Soviet Union. He later joined General Anders’ army.

Before the War, about 2,000 Jews lived in Legionów to which, in 1940, the Germans added 600 from surrounding places. On the 15th November of that year, a ghetto was opened in nearby Ludwisinie in which about 3,000 Jews were imprisoned. It was located not far from the home of Olga and Danuta. Their neighbour, and Danuta’s friend, Chawa Zawiesińska, was also sent to the ghetto.

On 4th October 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. The majority of the Jews were transported to Treblinka, where they perished in the gas chambers. Many managed to escape just before the liquidation (the ghetto area was not walled, but leaving it meant the death penalty). Years later, Danuta recalled, ”Shots and distant screams from the ghetto awoke us. We realised that this was the end. The Germans were committing a massacre and liquidating the ghetto […]. At around 3:00pm, everything went quiet, and at 4:00am we heard a knocking on the window. Scared, I parted the curtain a little and recognized my friend Chawa Zawiesińska”. The girl had managed to escape. Wounded and wearing only a shirt, she had come to the Jagiełowicz family. The Germans had shot her two brothers who had also tried to escape. Olga and Danuta decided to take care of Chawa.

Józef, Chawa’s third brother, appeared at their home a few days later. Together with his family, he had been in hiding in Warsaw. He wanted to know what was happening with his relatives. During the meeting, he asked Olga and Danuta to also take in their mother, Sara and her sister, Ignes. After a few days, he and his wife, Estera, also joined those in hiding. It was necessary to arrange an appropriate hiding place.

The first hiding place was under the floor of one room. Józef removed a few floorboards, dug a hole, shored it up with planks and covered it with carpet. The hiding place neither had steps nor a ladder. A second hiding place was in the attic, a small room behind a false wall, with a chimney from which two bricks had been removed to provide ventilation. It measured 90 cm wide and 2.5 m long. This narrow and dark space between the ceiling and the roof theoretically served as an appraoch to the chimney. A flap had been cut into the ceiling. Without light, it was almost invisible. The Zawiesiński family used these two places for the next three years, until the retreat of the German army.

Danuta Szklarek recalls the details of one incident which took place about a year after the Jews came to their home. One day, Germans came to the house on ul Cegielni 9. They shot the barking dog, began searching the house and nearby. They  were searching for Jews. At that time, the Zawiesiński family were in their hiding places. One of the soldiers came to Danuta who was holding her three year old son. He put a revolver to the child’s chest and asked her where were the Jews. ”Afraid, my son replied that there are no Jews here”. At that, the soldier lowered the revolver and order his men to stop searching.

Despite that dramatic incident, the Zawiesiński family remained with Olga and Danuta. Under their care, they waited out the War and the entry of the Soviet army. After emerging from hiding, the Zawiesiński family went to Warsaw and lived, for a time, in Praga, at ul. Targowa 7. They later left for Israel. After the passing of Danuta Szklarek, the Zawiesiński family placed a condolence notice in Życie Warszawy. It read:  Danusiu, we will miss you, but in our hearts and in the hearts of our family in Israel, you will always be a living memory.

The house, which had served as such a great hiding place, was demolished in the mid-1970’s.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Szklarek S., Dom na Cegielni - krótka historia
  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.