The Kordasiewicz family

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Story of Rescue - The Kordasiewicz family

Before the outbreak of the war, the widowed Maria Kordasiewicz lived with her daughters Olga (married name Kornecka, born 1905), Helena, and Władysława (married name Handl, born 1918) and her son Józef in Podbuże (Drohobycz Poviat, Lviv Voivodeship). The family occupied a modest studio apartment.

Maria maintained friendly contact with the Maurers, a Jewish family living nearby. Augusta Maurer ran a chemist’s in Podbuże. Her son Aleksander and her son-in-law Henryk Szwind were both lawyers. Henryk’s father – Adolf Szwind – was the manager of a lumber mill at the nearby town of Turka.

In August 1942, when Jews living in Podbuże were ordered to move to the ghetto in Borysław, the Maurers asked Maria Kondrasiewicz for help. The woman first took care of Augusta Maurer whom she led to her place under the cover of darkness. “My mother kindly took in Aleksander’s ill mother and hid her at her apartment. She did this at night, leading her to us personally, making sure that the neighbours knew absolutely nothing about it”, Olga Kornecka wrote after the war.

Augusta’s family hid in a forest until late autumn that year and then asked Maria for help, driven to do so by cold and hunger. In 1985, Aleksander Maurer wrote in his statement: “I am Jewish and, due to this, I was – like every other Jew - subjected to discrimination and persecution by the German occupation authorities. When a decisive moment came, when myself and six of my family members were threatened with certain doom, we found a safe shelter at Maria Kordasiewicz’s apartment”. Maria hid Aleksander, his mother, his wife, his sister with her husband, and his parents in her basement. They all stayed with Kordasiewicz right until May 1944. They spent whole days in the basement, coming out to the room of the apartment, where they could wash themselves and have a breath of fresh air, only at night. Adolf Szwind died while in hiding and Augusta suffered from a serious illness and died shortly after leaving the hiding place.

In order to get enough food for a group of people in hiding, Maria would go to the neighbouring village of Stronna where – according to what her daughter recalled – she bought food, traded various articles for food and sometimes even begged farmers she knew to give her food. “This was more than she could bear - she was 64 at the time. My mother was a decent, helpful, and respected person, people knew her well and helped her, they were kind to her”.

Olga, Maria’s daughter, learned about the hiding Maurers after some time. In the summer of 1942, she left Podbuże for Lviv. In her statement, she described a visit she paid to her mother: “When I entered the kitchen, food was cooking in great pots and there were some belongings of the Maurers in the closet which made me realise that my mother had been hiding that family.” Maria asked her daughter to “remain calm and keep this a secret”. Olga soon left the family house because her bed was occupied by the ailing Augusta Maurer.

Władysława, another one of Maria’s daughters, residing permanently in Cracow, also learned about the family in hiding during a visit she paid to her mother in the summer of 1943. The two daughters tried to help their mother by sending small packages of food and tobacco to her. Helena, Maria’s third daughter, never left the family home as she was suffering from the Parkinson’s disease and needed constant care. In addition to her helping the Jews she was hiding, Maria also had to look after her ill daughter.

Aleksander Maurer wrote in his statement in 1985: “Maria took me and my entire family in on her own initiative, completely selflessly, without any reward from us and without even a promise of one - she only acted out of mercy and compassion, even though her own financial situation was far from good”. “That act of hers almost amounts to heroism”, he added.

After leaving Podbuże in 1945, Maria and the people she saved settled in Wrocław. The two families maintained cordial relations.

In 1989, the Yad Vashem Institute the Righteous Among the Nations title to Maria Kordasiewicz and her daughter Helena.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009