The Krawczykowicz Family

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Story of Rescue - The Krawczykowicz Family

Brańsk (today in the Podlaskie province) – the Krawczykowicz and Finkelsztejn families live on the same street. They become good friends.

The Krawczykowicz have three children and a large farm. The head of the family, Michał (born in 1885), also catches fish on the Nurzec River. He sells them to Jews prior to Shabbat.

The Finkelsztejns also have three children. The father, Chaim is a horse trader. The children of both families also become friends. Helena Krawczykowicz (today Szarek) goes to school with Szoszana Finkelsztejn. ”I cannot say anything bad about the Jews”, she recalls. ”Before Christmas, they even gave the children small gifts”.

1939 – the outbreak of war. The Germans bomb Brańsk and deport people for slave-labor. Michał also found himself in Germany where he remained for four years. Brańsk soon  ”belongs” to the Russians. Again there are deportations and murders.

In the summer of 1941, the Germans return. They imprison the Jews within a ghetto.

According to Helena, “It was surrounded by a high wall guarded by the Germans. They treated the Jews horribly. It was already apparent that all the Jews would be transported to the camps”.

Some succeed in escaping from the ghetto – for example, the Finkelsztejns. They keep changing their hiding-places – a forest, a cornfield, in a cowshed belonging to friends in the village of Jóźki. At night, they leave their hiding-places for food.

They tap on, among others, the window of the Krawczykowicz family. This is a pre-arranged signal – they receive food, clothing and shoes. Sometimes they are forced to remain in the cowshed for several days due to the presence of strangers. Szoszana speaks Polish well and has a ”good appearance”. Therefore, she is able to leave their hiding-place during the day.

One winter, another escapee appears at the Krawczykowicz family – Wełwko Alperin. His is a friend of Helena’s brother, Władysław. Before the War, they went together on boys’ nights out.

He is hungry, barefoot and freezing. He was in hiding with his family in a bunker hidden in the woods. The Germans conducted a raid. He alone managed to run away. As the Krawczykowicz’s were had guests, He slipped quietly into another room.

Helena found him there. He was given food and clothing. He then hid in the area as part of a larger group. He came to the Krawczykowicz family for food accompanied by the Brojd brothers - Icek (who, after the War, was murdered by bandits) and Josel (who emigrated to Israel).

The Finkelsztejn family also survived. They left for Białystok. Szoszana married Wełwko Alperin. In order to support his family, Chaim Finkelsztejn again worked as a trader.

During one of his visits to Brańsk, He was murdered in broad daylight. The cause was probably money. ”It was extremely tragic as they had suffered so much over several years”, says Helena.

The Finkelsztejn and Alperin families emigrated to Israel. In the 1950’s, they made their home in Kiryat Białystok, a settlement comprised of Jews from Podlasie.

Szoszana and Helena exchanged correspondence. Later, with families and after moving homes, they lost contact. At the end of the 1980’s, with the help of a priest,  Helena was located. Szoszana invited her to Israel where she spent two months. Szoszana also visited Poland.  

In 2002, Helena was awarded the medal and title of ”Righteous Among the Nations”. Her mother, Zofia, and brothers Władysław, Jan and Zygmunt were also honored. Her father, Michał, was not awarded the medal as he spent the majority of the occupation outside of Brańsk.

Bibliography

  • Zawadowska Janina, Zbyszek Romaniuk
  • Zubkowicz Rafał, Interview with Helena Szarek, 8.02.2009