Kossak Zofia

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Story of Rescue - Kossak Zofia

The Polish novelist came from an outstanding family. She was a granddaughter of the painter Juliusz Kossak, and a cousin of the poet Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska.

She was born in Kośmin on the Wieprz river. She spent her childhood in the Lublin district. In 1906 she worked as a teacher in Warsaw. Later on she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts – first in Warsaw, and then in Geneva. In 1915 she married Stefan Szczucki and made her home in Volhynia, where she stayed during Bolshevik revolution.

After the death of her husband she settled in Górki Wielkie in Silesia where she wrote her best works: books dedicated to Silesia (e.g., “Nieznany kraj” [The Unknown Country], “Wielcy i mali” [The Great and the Little”], stories for children (“Kłopoty Kacperka góreckiego skrzata” [The Troubles of Kacperek, a Górki Leprechaun], “Topsy i Lupus” [Topsy and Lupus], “Bursztyny” [The Ambers], hagiographic stories (“Szaleńcy Boży” [God’s Madmen], and, first and foremost her great hictorical novels (“Krzyżowcy” [The Crusaders], “Król trędowaty” [The Lepper King], “Bez oręża” [Blessed and the Meek]. In 1925 she was remarried to Zygmunt Szatkowski and moved to Warsaw.

From the very beginning of the World War II she was active in the Polish underground, and since 1941 she got involved in a catholic organization Poland’s Rebirth Front. She also co-edited the first inderground newspaper “Poland Lives”.

On Aug. 11th, 1942, when the Germans began extermination of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, Zofia Kossak wrote an appeal entitled “Protest”. She wrote: “The world watches this terrible crime, the worst in its history – and stays silent. The massacre of millions of helpless people is carried on amidst the general, malevolent silence. (...) That silence cannot be tolerated any longer. (...) That who remains silent in the face of murder – becomes murderer’s accomplice. That who does not condemn – gives consent.” Publication of the appeal became crucial in shaping attitudes of Poles towards Jews.

In September 1942, Zofia Kossak, together with Wanda Krahelska, founded a Provisional Committee to Aid Jews, which soon evolved into Council to Aid Jews “Żegota”. Within this organization she actively participated in rescuing several people and therefore after the war was awarded the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations.

In 1943 she was arrested by a German patrol on suspicion that she was Jewish. After a few days in the Pawiak prison she was sent to KL Auschwitz and then back to Pawiak. In 1944 underground leaders managed to arrange her release and so she took part in the Warsaw Uprising.

After the war she went to London, where she stayed for 12 years. Having returned to Poland in 1957, she once more settled in Górki Wielkie, where she spent the rest of her life.

After the death of Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, her husband iniciated a museum in Górki Wielkie devoted to her.

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Bibliography

  • Tonini Carla, Czas nienawiści i czas troski. Zofia Kossak-Szczucka – antysemitka, która ratowała Żydów, Warszawa 2007
    A biography of Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, the initiator of the idea of establishing the Temporary Committee to Aid Jews in Warsaw, the organization assisting ghetto runaways.