The Kowalik family

enlarge map

Story of Rescue - The Kowalik family

The Kowalik and Przybyłko families lived in the Bochnia Poviat (in the Cracow region), in the villages of Rajbrot and Borownia. Władysława Paprota, née Kowalik, moved to the house of her sister Waleria in Bochnia after war broke out to help her sister and her sister’s husband run their farm. It was there that their help for the Jews started. The first people to be helped were Julian and his sister Anna Heśla and her son Ignacy. Then there were two brothers from the Nut family.

During the occupation period, starting from 1943, Bronisław and Waleria Przybyłko hid at least seven Jewish people, fugitives from the ghetto in Bochnia and the Płaszów camp, in an especially prepared bunker in their basement. Some of those people had managed to escape from the Jewish district in Bochnia thanks to Bronisław Przybyłko’s help.

When the number of people they were hiding started to grow, a decision was made to transfer some of them to the house of Waleria’s mother – Anna Kowalik – in order to ensure their safety and the safety of their hosts. “In time, people started regarding our house with suspicion. I led our charges to the house of my parents in Rajbrot, where they felt safer, complying with the urgent pleas of Sabina – Weinfeld’s aunt – and the rest of their family. The house of my parents was located at the outskirts of the village, on a hill surrounded by woods. My elder brother Władysław Kowalik and my mother Anna Kowalik took it upon themselves to care for those people”, Władysława recalled.

The following people hid at the Kowalik household: Jenta Wulf and her son Dawid (aged 6), Jenta’s brother – Aleksander Weinfeld, and their aunt – Sabina Holländer A bunker under the floor was prepared for them there. They spent whole days in it and left their hiding place only on rare occasions, in the evening.

Władysława also mentioned that the tasks to be performed were distributed between members of the family: “my role was to handle correspondence with Jews hiding in other places. I conveyed secret messages to distant villages and bunkers built in the surrounding fields. I looked after those people on a daily basis for several years. I also ensured hygiene at the bunker. [...] My brother-in-law and then my mother procured food”. Younger members of the family were charged with warning others of any incoming threats such as German manhunts.

According to accounts, there had been at least two German inspections at the house of the Kowalik family but they were not thorough enough to have allowed the Germans to find the bunker with hiding Jews in it. When the situation was particularly dangerous and when the financial standing of the Kowalik family was particularly poor, i.e. in August 1944, an agreement was concluded stipulating that the Jews were to remain in hiding until the end of the war and would subsequently aid their hosts financially. According to the relevant documentation, the Kowalik family harboured the fugitives but were not rewarded after the war.

All Jews hidden by the Przybyłko and Kowalik families managed to survive the occupation. After the war, Aleksander Weinfeld emigrated to Israel and then stayed in Sweden. The others moved to Sweden. They remained in touch with their rescuers.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Władysławy Paprota-Kowalik, 349/24/750