The Kulczycki Family

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Story of Rescue - The Kulczycki Family

Katarzyna and Franciszek Kulczycki, together with their sons, lived in Brody (Tarnopol Voivodeship, currently Ukraine). The 16,000 population of Brody was diverse in terms of nationality, and many Jews had lived there, too. When the German army occupied Brody on 6 July 1941, the Jews suffered harsh restrictions, were deprived of all rights, fell victim of executions, and were soon locked in a ghetto.

The Germans sent Franciszek Kulczycki to work in a lumber mill. His work consisted of supplying wood from the forest using a horse-drawn carriage. Katarzyna was employed as kitchen chef in the cafeteria of the German organization Todt. Jews also worked in the kitchen. Kulczycka aided those Jews by allowing them to smuggle out food.

In September 1942, upon learning about the planned German police action against the Jews, Katarzyna warned a few families. The Kulczyckis took in a few people and hid them in a cell under the floor, which was covered with a carpet. Those people included: Herman Achtentuch, Lusia Skulska, her cousin Mańka, Isak Kupferman, Runia nee Meles, Bronia (Marcin Motehes’s sister-in-law), and Seltzer. In addition, the wife of the commandant of the Ukrainian police, Sachowicz, and her parents were hidden in the shed. The Kulczyckis’ neighbors, Markus Schwadron, his daughter Liza Grunfeld, and his granddaughter Greta found refuge at the house of countess Abramowicz.

The Kulczyckis’ sons, 9-year-old Marian and 7-year-old Bolesław, were also involved in providing help. They brought food to the people in hiding, which they bought on the market or which they stole from the cafeteria, where their mother worked. The two boys were also responsible for removing waste from the hiding places. Marian and Bolesław would also go to the houses of the Jews to retrieve certain items for their charges.

Fearing exposure, Franciszek began to gradually move the Jews to the village of Majdan Pieniacki, to the house of his friend, Józef Bobik. The Jews were hidden in a specially prepared shelter. Those who were transferred there in the first stage included: Markus Schwadron with his daughter Liza and granddaughter Greta (who hid at the Kulczyckis from November 1942), Lusia Skulska, Mańka and Philip Chalfin. In spring 1943, the next round of people was taken to Bobik, as well as to Józefa Schnitzer, and Anna Magazyn, and included: Herman Achtentuch, Isak Kupferman, Runia nee Meles, Seltzer, and Hersz Frid.

Franciszek, Marian, and Bolesław used to go to Majdan Pieniacki to supply the Jews with food and other items of daily use – including dental instruments for the dentist Isak Kupferman, or sewing threads for the tailor Hersz Frid. The two Kulczycki boys would also go to the ghetto in the Ostrowczyk district with food, which they handed to families they knew – those of Dr. Bilig and Norman Adler.

On 9 March 1944, Marian and Bolesłąw were home alone. The family of commandant Sachowicz was still hiding under the floor. The boys heard pounding on the door. They opened. On the threshold stood Sachowicz with the Gestapo, who shouted at Marian that he was a Polish criminal. The boy blocked the entry to the house. The Gestapo began to shoot. Marian fell dead, and his younger brother was injured in the arm. Sachowicz led the Gestapo out of the house, and in this way he craftily rescued his family. At night, his wife and in-laws left the hiding place.

In March 1944, the eastern front passed through Brody. Franciszek joined the ranks of the 2nd Regiment of the 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Division within the Polish Army. Katarzyna and Bolesław found themselves in dire straits. The survivor Philip Chalfin helped them financially.

On the request of Philip Chalfin and Greta, who got married after the war, the Kulczycki family – Katarzyna, Franciszek, and Marian (posthumously) – were awarded the Righteous Among the Nations title. All of the survivors emigrated from Poland.

In 1993 in New York, Greta and Philip Chalfin gave Bolesław Kulczycki a special memento – the last undelivered letter to his father Franciszek written by Liza Grunfled in 1943.

Edited based on the documentation provided by Bolesałw Kulczycki in November 2012.

Bibliography

  • Aftewicz Małgorzata, To byli nasi sąsiedzi, „Kurier Szczeciński”, nr 130
    Concerns Katarzyna and Franciszka Kulczycki honored medal at the request of Greta and Filip Chalfin.