The Jiruski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Jiruski Family

Before the war, Maria Jiruska lived at ul. Kowelska 4 in Warsaw. Elementary school no. 136 was located there and Maria was its director. She lived in one apartment with her mother Wanda and her younger sister Stefania. The two sisters were social activists supporting education and the scouts. In their youth, they had taken active part in Polish scout organisations in the area under Austrian occupation where they lived at the time (Halicz).

Due to her involvement with the scouts, Maria came to know more about Jewish scout organisations which were prominent in Poland at that time. She established cordial, brotherly relations with trainers of such organisations. She remembered the several days she spent in their training camp close to the Vistula in August 1939 as “one of the most beautiful moments of my long work with young people”.

During the occupation, her help for the Jews was an important aspect of her activity, in addition to education and involvement with the scouts. She, her mother, and her sister would not refuse to help anybody. Their apartment was both a hiding place for regular people and a node used for organisational purposes by the underground. It was then that she met, among others, Arie Wilner and Henryk Grabowski, activists of Jewish resistance. Adults and children were hidden at their apartment - Maria would bring them there right before the curfew began. The kitchen and the third room of her apartment were always occupied by Jews. According to the recollections of her brother’s daughter who lived with them after her parents divorced, “at least 80 to 100 people went through the apartment” and most of them managed to survive the war.

Eleonora Hopfenstrand (Sekrecka), with whose brother-in-law, the director of a Jewish high school, Maria made friends before the war, was among such people. Maria, together with her mother and sister, also saved Eleonora’s mother, for whom she always managed to find a safe hiding place when she was in danger, as well as her daughter, whom she placed in a facility ran by nuns (she did the same for many other children). She also hid Balbina Osser (Danuta Jurkowska), her fellow teacher, for a long time. What is more, even though Maria Jiruska was a deeply religious Catholic, she did not hesitate a moment when she needed to swear on the Cross that a child was not Jewish in order to save that child.

Maria, her mother, and her sister helped others selflessly. They helped them because they believed in humanitarian values and had strong religious convictions according to which they were bound to find people in need and help them. After the war, Maria remained in touch, both personally and by mail, with many people who owed her their lives.

The Yad Vashem Institute awarded Wanda, Maria, and Stefania with the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1994.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Bartoszewski Władysław, Lewinówna Zofia, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Warszawa 2007
    This publication consists of 3 parts: monographic outline of the issue of aid given to the Jews; collection of German and Polish documents concerning the histories of Jews and the aid given to them; collection of the post-war reports created by Poles and Jews about the aid.
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349/24, 1997
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009