The Jaworscy Family

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Story of Rescue - The Jaworscy Family

Anna Jaworska and her children: Mikołaj, Olga, Helena, Wiktoria, Antonina and Aniela lived in the village of Mielnicze (Turka Municipality, Lviv Province), where she worked on her farm. Her husband Mikołaj had died before the outbreak of the war.

Mendel Seifert lived with his daughter Rózia and his mother Matylda (Matla) Seifert in Turka in the Lviv Province. His wife Hinda Gerstel had died in childbirth. Under German occupation, the family initially remained in Turka, where Matylda Seifert was killed in one of the earliest mass executions. Mendel avoided death, because, as he wrote in his account from 1964, “They let me be because I worked as a sign painter, and I was the only one in the city, so they needed me for the time being”. Along with his daughter, sister-in-law and children, he managed to hide in an attic in Turka during subsequent bloody actions, which he later described in the Memorial Book of the Community of Turka published in 1966.

In the autumn of 1942 all the surviving Jews from Turka were ordered to move into the Sambor ghetto by December 1942.The Seiferts held a family debate. Mendel's brother, Mosze Leib Seifert (1898–1944), joined a partisan group in the nearby forest. Mendel and his sister-in-law Fania (wife of Juda Seifert), who was disabled, and her son Lusiek were preparing to move into the ghetto. Mendel's two remaining brothers, Jehuda (Juda) Seifert (1899-1944), Meir (1905-1944) and his sister Hana Ester Goldberg (1900-1943) with her husband and son, all perished.

According to one account, Anna Jaworska saw Mendel selling his furniture. Out of compassion for Rózia and Lusiek, she decided to hide the Seiferts in her house in the village of Mielnicze. Mendel only recalls: “by accident, we met Anna Jaworska, who agreed to take us, the miracle survivors, into her home.” Her son Mikołaj brought everyone to the village in a wagon under a load of hay. Helena Jaworska remembers that in 1942, her older brother Mikołaj brought home a Jewish family of six from Turka. In 1984 in her statement for the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, Helena Jaworska said: “My mother, out of compassion, agreed that the Jews could stay with us”. Together, they prepared a hiding place: a dugout in the stable, accessible through a concealed entrance in the barn. The six Jews were unable to pay for their upkeep. According to Helena: “They paid us nothing because they had nothing”. The Jews stayed in the dugout for about six months. However, the conditions in the shelter were so harsh that the children lost the ability to walk. In the autumn of 1943 the hideaways were transferred to a new place in the attic, “where the conditions were slightly better for health”.

Helena recalls that at her home “Very often […] the Gestapo would show up and ask if we were harbouring Jews”. She mentioned that all the children in the family kept the hideaways a secret. “The Gestapo would often try to bribe children with sweets […]. None of my siblings gave away the hiding place of the Jews. We were constantly under threat of death […]”. The Memorial Book of the Community of Turka contains a poem by Mendel Seifert composed in 1943 while in hiding, in which his daughter Rózia dreams about the end of the war and a new life in Palestine.

Every day, the Jaworski family brought modest meals into the hideout and took away the waste. In addition to the Seiferts, the Jaworski family were also sheltering Jakub Laks (or, according to the Jaworskis, Szaja Jacko) and Jonas Kraus. What is more, Wiktoria Jaworska gave her identity documents to her Jewish neighbour Łajcia Jacko (or Ruchcia Fiszer, according to Mendel Seifert's account), which allowed her to avoid deportation to a forced labour camp and thus survive the war. Wiktoria, however, was arrested as a result of a denunciation letter. Interrogated at the Gestapo headquarters in Drohobych, she refused to give away the hiding place of the Seiferts and was released several months later. In the summer of 1944 the Jaworskis moved the Jews to the forest out of fear of German soldiers, who came to surrounding farms confiscating food and searching for Jews and deserters. According to Mendel Seifert's account, Jaworska also gave assistance to Jewish partisans hiding in the nearby forests.

After the war Mendel married Fania. Initially, they lived in Gliwice with Fania's son Lusiek and daughter Rózia, then they all migrated to the US.Mendel settled in Los Angeles. Rózia (Shoshana) started a family and moved to Tivon, Israel, where she worked as a teacher. Wiktoria moved to Wrocław. For many years, the two families kept in touch by letters. In 1964 Mendel Seifert wrote an account of his wartime experiences, requesting financial relief for Anna Jaworska from the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (Polish: Towarzystwo Społeczno-Kulturalne Żydów). Seifert stressed that he had thought about the Jaworski family even after liberation, but as an ordinary labourer, he was not able to help Jaworska sufficiently. In 1964 director of the Jewish Historical Institute Bernard Mark issued a document attesting to the rescue of Jews by the Jaworski family.

In 1989 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award Anna Jaworska, her son Mikołaj Jaworski and daughters Wiktoria, Olga and Helena the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

In 2008 the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous arranged a meeting of Shoshana Rotschild (Rózia Seifert) and Wiktoria Jaworska.