The Kosowicz family

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Story of Rescue - The Kosowicz family

As World War II broke out, Chaja and Lejb Zylberberg lived in Połaniec together with their baby daughter Małka born on 22 May 1939. They had friendly relationships with the Poles, and with the Kosowicz family in particular.

In January 1941, the Nazi Germans opened the Połaniec ghetto. The Zylberbergs moved there, but occasionally worked outside its area. Over a year later, in October 1942, a few days before the Połaniec Jewish quarter was liquidated, Chaja and Lejb asked Jan and Józefa for help. They suspected the upcoming action and left their three-year old daughter with the Kosowiczes. They wanted to collect her when the situation in the ghetto gets stabler. However, they got killed a few days later.

The girl stayed with the Kosowicz family on a permanent basis. She was named Maria and introduced as a family member. At particularly hazardous moments, she was taken away from home and hidden in the homes of their friends and relatives.

When rumours surrounding the girl's origin started spreading in the neighbourhood, Józefa and Jan moved her to a different location. As she could have been recognised in Połaniec, there was a risk of denunciation which could have tragic consequences. Therefore, the Kosowiczes decided to take the girl to the village of Starościce, Lublin area, where Mrs Warchołowska, Józefa's sister, lived. Despite a difficult trajectory and several inspections on the train, they got safely to their destination. Maria stayed with Mrs Warchołowska until the end of the German occupation in that area, i.e. until July 1944.

After WW2, the Kosowiczes adopted the girl, baptised her and formally changed her name to Maria. "My parents died, and I stayed with the Kosowiczes for good. My foster parents risked their own lives and those of their relatives to hide me from the Germans," she emphasised after the war. However, the child grew up fully aware of her Jewish origin. The Kosowiczes paid for the education of Maria, who became a doctor. Later in life, she lived in Tarnów and took care of her foster parents.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, M.31.2/5233
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Józefy i Jana Kosowiczów, 349/24/1379