The Kielan Family

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Story of Rescue - The Kielan Family

Franciszek Kielan was born in Sokołów Podlaski. He had four siblings. His family’s situation was tough. As a 12-year-old boy, upon finishing a four-year public school, he was sent to work. He worked in a judge’s chamber office rewriting petitioners’ applications. He was so talented that at the age of 14 he was entrusted with directing the office of an investigation judge.

In 1913, he went to Suwałki to work in the prosecutor’s office. As a prosecutor’s office employee, he was evacuated to Russia in 1915, where he had passed his high school exams on an extramural basis.

He lived through the October Revolution in Russia, and returned to Sokołów in fall 1918. He wanted to begin university studies, but he was drafted to the army at the beginning of 1919. He served as a second lieutenant in Łuków in the Podlasie region, where he met Maria Osińska, a graduate of the local secondary school. They got married in 1922 and settled in Sokołów. They had two daughters: Krystyna and Zofia.

In 1934, they moved to Warsaw, where Krystyna and Zofia attended secondary school. They were both scouts. They spent their summer vacations of 1938 and 1939 on scout camps.

After the outbreak of World War II, the Kielan sisters began their studies at the Horticultural School, and they attended clandestine education, where they studied subjects that were forbidden by the German occupiers. They also became engaged in underground scouting movements – Zofia was in the Grey Ranks, and Krystyna joined the “Help to the Soldiers” organization.

Jana

In 1941, a new student, Janina (Jana), joined the class, which the Kielan sisters had attended. Zofia became friendly with her, and often invited her home; she helped Jana fill in the gaps in her knowledge, a result of Jana’s very irregular school attendance.

In spring 1942, Jana confided in her friend that she was losing the room in which she lived, and because of that she would have to resign from school. Having had consulted with her sister, Zofia asked her parents to agree to bring Jana to their spacious, four-room apartment on Wilson Square in the Żoliborz district. The parents agreed, and Jana moved in with the Kielans, with all the rights as a third daughter.  

“At some point, Ms. Milica gave her notice to vacate the apartment; that someone is coming and she needs that corner, [that] she couldn’t keep Jana any longer. And I became very friendly with Jana; we were in the same class; we didn’t know at that time that Jana was Jewish. And Jana came in despair and says, ‘You know, I probably have to go back to Laski’ – where [her] mother was with Tomek [her brother, born in 1930] – ‘because I have no place to live. Milica gave me a notice to move out, and I will not find an apartment.’ And I told her then: ‘You know, maybe you could move in with us, we have a big house, and you could live there, but my parents must agree.’

I talked it over with Krysia and we brought Jana home; Krysia and I. Only mom was at home, and mom already knew Jana, because Jana had visited me often, we studied there together, and mom used to always give her some dinner, because Jana would cook something at this Milica’s and that was really not good, so she sometimes had a normal dinner. So, we came, and I say to mom: ‘Mom, could Jana live with us, because she doesn’t have where to live, and our children’s room…’ – because there were big rooms in this apartment and Krysia and I lived together – ‘… another couch can fit there.’ Mom says: ‘OK, but let daddy return from work, we have to think about it.’ And dad came; he also liked Jana. OK, [our] parents agreed that Jana will live with us.”

Jana did not disclose her Jewish origin at any point – either before or after moving into the Kielans’ home. However, a few weeks after the move, a cousin who came from the Pionki region, had visited the Kielans. The last name “Prot” was familiar to her. It turned out that Jana’s father was a famous Doctor Engineer, the chemist Jan Prot, who, from 1927, had served as the executive director of the National Factory of Powder and Blasting Materials in Pionki, which employed a few thousand people.

Jan Prot was formerly called Jan Berlinerbau. He was a legionary, Piłsudski’s close co-worker. He converted to Catholicism, and changed his last name. Jana’s mother, Zofia Deiches, was also Jewish.

This way, the Kielans found out whom they hosted:

“Mom came to me with this changed face; one of our aunts or someone came who knew Jana’s parents and mom says to me: ‘You know, she said that both Jana’s father and her mother are of Jewish origin. So, we must think what to do in this situation.’ Later, after some time, mom told me that father and her were so nervous that they couldn’t sleep at all. But finally they decided that what will be, be it.”

In summer 1942, Franciszek Kielan recommended Jana to help on a farm that belonged to the School of Agriculture in Dąbrowa Zduńska, directed by a married couple – Wyszomirski, who were the Kielans’ acquaintances. Helping in work in the fields, the barn, and around the house, Jana lasted there until Christmas 1942, after which the Kielans took her back in face of a denunciation threat.

She also returned to attending clandestine schooling and, in spring 1943, she passed her high school exams together with the Kielans’ two daughters. She moved out from the Kielans, but she often visited them and used their help.

Romana Laks

In fall 1942, Franciszek Kielan’s sister, Jadwiga Krauze, had asked the Kielans to take care of a 7-year-old Jewish girl, the daughter of her husband’s friend. After her escape from the ghetto with her parents – the Laks’, the girl awaited false papers, thanks to which she was supposed to be placed in a convent.

“My uncle, Konstanty Krauze, worked in his brother’s chemical plant. The Krauzes were a wealthy family. And there he had his friend – Mr. Laks. One day, [our] aunt came to us (his wife and my father’s sister) and says: ‘I have to keep somewhere this Jewish girl, who is waiting for a spot in some convent. She came out of the ghetto. Can I bring her to you?’ And she came.”

Romana Laks had spent about two weeks at the Kielans’ house.

The Uprising

The outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising found Jana, a student at the Nursing School at that time, at the Kielans in Żoliborz. Together with Zofia, they joined the sanitary patrol of the Breadwinner Group of the Home Army, active in Żoliborz and Marymont.

During the capitulation of Żoliborz, Jana and Zofia became cut off from their leadership, because they were bringing the injured to the hospital. They left Warsaw together with the civilian population. By coincidence, they met Zofia’s lonely mother, Maria Kielan, and together they ended up in the Pruszków camp. A female physician they knew issued Zofia a certificate that she was sick with tuberculosis. Jana tied a pillow around her stomach and pretended she was pregnant.

Thanks to that, all three of them were placed in a barrack with people leaving for the General Government.

They escaped from the train in Skierniewice:

“Because when the train stopped in Skierniewice and it was announced that this was Skierniewice, and it was an open car; it rained terribly and mom remembered that we had friends in Skierniewice. So we jumped over this high wall, we exited there; it was night; we saw someone coming – it was a railroad worker. And we say that we are from the Uprising, and he invited us home. 

Jana remembers it differently; Jana remembers that when we came to them to the house, his wife began to reproach him: what for did he bring us there, there will be problems. I didn’t hear this. They let us sit on this couch and sit it out. And I remember that they gave us hot milk; besides we had some food on us. And we stayed there still in the morning; mom went to look for our friends, and then returned on a horse-drawn carriage and took us. That was the Lewandowski couple.

There were many people from the Uprising at their house. They gave us a kitchen to use, where a cauldron with hot water stood, in which our clothes could be boiled, because we were infested with lice. (…) We boiled our clothing, bathed, washed, and, for the time being, we remained with them for a few days. And mother had a set contact with father in Błoń [near Skierniewice] at father’s sister, and now I don’t know how they met, but, in any case, father came for us. (…) We moved together to this Błoń, where my father’s sister lived, and we were there for some few days. When, I don’t remember, when Jana’s mother came for her. In any case, she took her and she was somewhere near Kraków.”

After the War

After the war, Franciszek Kielan continued his work at the Cooperative as a high-class specialist – a certified public accountant. Maria Kielan worked as an accountant after the war.

Krystyna Kielan-Rybicka (Bąkowska after first marriage) graduated from Warsaw University of Life Sciences [Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego, SGGW]. She specialized in parasitology, and became a docent at the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1970, she emigrated to the United States; she died in Philadelphia.

Zofia Kielan-Jaworska studied biology at the University of Warsaw. She specialized in paleontology; she received her Professor title relatively fast. She was renowned worldwide for her academic work. 

She had organized eight Polish-Mongolian Paleontological Expeditions to Mongolia, and directed five of them on site. Those expeditions led to the valuable collection of dinosaurs and early mammals, which were researched by Polish and international paleontologists.

She spent eight years (1987-1995) in Oslo, where she directed the Department of Paleontology at the university there.

Jana finished medicine in Wrocław after the war. For a while, already during her studies, she served as an assistant to the famous scholar Ludwik Hirszfeld, who discovered blood types. In Warsaw, she specialized in neurology, and received a doctor of medicine degree in 1962. In 1968, she emigrated to the United States, where she lives until today.

During the entire postwar period she maintained warm relations with Zofia Kielan, her parents, and sister.

Romana Laks also emigrated to the U.S. Maria and Franciszek Kielan exchanged warm correspondence with her parents, and they met with her during their stay in New York in 1976. They were visiting their daughter Krystyna and their granddaughter.

In 1991, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Franciszek and Maria Kielan and their daughters Zofia and Krystyn the title “Righteous among the Nations.”
 

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Jadwiga Rytlowa, Interview with Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, 15.01.2010
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009