The Kuras Family
Story of Rescue - The Kuras Family
Mr. and Mrs. Kuraś, their daughter Joanna, and their two sons were living in Lviv before the war. At first they stayed in rented apartments: “For instance, we were living in one … [apartment]. There was the hall, on one side there were Jews, with their children, there were five children, we’d play together; and on the other side was our place, there were three of us kids. So it was all good and there were no quarrels or anything,” the Righteous told the Museum of History of Polish Jews in the interview.
In time the Kuraś family managed to build their own house; they bought most of the material in the store of Mrs. Pops. Joanna recalls: “[it was] this wholesale construction store. And we were building a house before the war, and my mom just made friends with her, just like that, when she was arranging for some things we needed for the construction.”
When the German occupation began, the Nazis forced the Pops family to move to the Lviv ghetto, the creation of which began in September 1941. Mrs. Pops asked the Kuraś family to “lend them their name” in order to obtain Aryan papers for her son-in-law and her seven-year-old (according to Joanna) grandson. From that time Henryk Stalmeister was able to use the name “Henryk Kuraś,” and pose as Karol’s brother, while his son was given the name “Marian Kuraś,” or “Marianek.”
Henryk managed to find safe shelter for himself and his wife Fania in the city of Skole (some 100 km from Lviv), where he found work as the head of a sawmill.
Taking their son Marianek from the ghetto was undertaken by the fifteen-year-old Joanna Kuraś. The ghetto was not yet walled; resettlement operations were in progress. She remembers: “the guards were always walking [around] and here I was, a young, petite blonde going there, and the Germans, standing there, [would even call out]: ‘Fräulein, Fräulein,’ and I was probably going [there] with books.”
Marianek stayed with the Kuraś family for nearly a year. He was posing as a cousin of Joanna’s. “He’d call my mom ‘aunt,’ and my dad, ‘uncle,’ ” the Righteous recounts. Little Mundek Pops was also staying with them.
Joanna Błaś nee Kuraś relates: “One day I was alone there, except for Marianek and Mundek. My dad was at work; mom went to Tarnów to visit her sister. And my brothers were at school. And two Ukrainians came, two policemen.
“They said: ‘Is there a boy staying here, Marianek?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ ‘Who is he?’ Me: “He’s my cousin, my uncle’s son.’ He: ‘Is he in?’ Me: ‘He is;’ he was home. And he says: ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Marianek Kuraś,’ ‘Why don’t you take off your pants.’ He started crying, Marianek I mean. ‘What’s wrong? Take them off,’ they were both so polite. ‘Take them off,’ ‘No, I won’t.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘I’m ashamed.’
“And then [the man] says ‘We were told you are harboring a Jewish child.’ Naturally, I said ‘We don’t, that’s my cousin.’ But he said ‘Get dressed.’ And he’s taking him and me. I started crying something terrible, knelt down and kissed his hands, begging him to leave me. And I don’t know what happened, but they took Marianek, and left me alone.”
After this search caused by a denunciation, Mundek Pops and Marianek were placed in the ghetto once more.
Second escape from the ghetto
After some two months, asked by Marianek’s parents, Joanna and her brothers went to the ghetto once more to get the boy out.
“It was July, I think. And my brothers, in the evening, you know boys, boys can always get places somehow. … They went there, through a hole, there was this small hole, and they were waiting there, and Marianek slipped through that hole,” Joanna recalls.
Joanna Błaś took the boy to his parents in Skole: “I was afraid to go to the train station, the Lviv central station, but the next station was Skniłów. And me and my brothers, we went with Marianek to Skniłów, I think it’s a couple of kilometers, and we got on the train there. I bought the tickets, we got on the train and went to Skole.”
When they reached their destination, it turned out Marianek was ill with typhoid fever. He could not be treated in a hospital. Joanna recounts their struggle with the illness:
“A doctor came, with the Star of David band. Meaning he was Jewish. And he examined him. That’s important. He examined him and says: ‘You need to take him to an infectious disease hospital right now! He’s got typhus.’ And he came like that, we brought him with typhus. And [Henryk] said: ‘Doctor, why, he’ll stay here.’ And the doctor says: ‘You can’t do that, you’re working, your wife’s working … how do you imagine that, you can’t take the child, you can’t leave him here, he needs to get to a hospital now!’ ‘But he can’t.’ ‘What do you mean, he can’t? He has to! It’s necessary!’ ‘But doctor, he’s a Jewish child.’ And the doctor: ‘People, what have you done to me, I don’t want to hear this!’ They say: ‘Doctor, you’re Jewish, you’ll understand, it’s a Jewish child, he can’t go to a hospital.’ ‘What am I supposed to do, what have you done to me?’ He was afraid. A they say: ‘Well, he’s gotta stay.’ ‘Who’s going to stay with him?’ … And I was standing there, and I say: “I can stay, doctor.’ And he looks at me and says: ‘So she knows?’ Because he could see I wasn’t Jewish, right? And I didn’t even know, and I still don’t know, if the doctor thought, if he knew they were also Jewish, or did he think they were hiding the child, I don’t know.”
Joanna’s care allowed the boy to get better.
Other people in need
Joanna Błaś and her parents were also helping other members of the family of Mrs. Pops hiding on the Aryan side. For some time, Pops’ children Mundek and Róża Abraham were hiding at the Kuraś house. Róża managed to reach Skole and join Henryk and Fania. Mundek and Mrs. Pops were killed in the ghetto.
Even the relatives of the Pops family, the Raubvogels, could count on the help of Joanna’s family. Joanna visited them in Skole. Her usual cover story was that she was a relative of theirs from Lviv, which lent further credibility to the Raubvogels’ assumed identities. They managed to survive the occupation.
Joanna Błaś recalls: “I rescued them and I arranged a lot of things for them in Lviv, for instance, things they couldn’t arrange themselves; they had some acquaintances, like doctor Nowak in Lviv, I’d come to him often, taking letters to him, he knew what to do and he’d later give me the answer, I’d take it to them. I was this sort of a messenger.”
At the time of the retreat of the German forces Fania, Henryk and Marianek Stalmeister died at the hands of unknown attackers, possibly connected with the UPA.
Joanna Błaś has tears in her eyes when she reminisces over the boy: “I feel so sorry for him, we went through so much together. I sacrificed [much] for him … such a man, I’m so sorry for him. Well, he’d be seventy-four today, I think. If he were alive.”
After the war
The Kuraś family were resettled to Lower Silesia. The Raubvogels left for Israel and subsequently settled in the US.
One of the relatives of the Stalmeister family who also remained in hiding, Ewa Raubvogel (a niece of Fania Stalmeister), maintains contacts with Joanna. Her testimony was the greatest contribution to the process of recognizing the Błaś family as Righteous Among the Nations. They were awarded the medals in 1993; they received their awards on November 9th, 1994.
Other Stories of Rescue in the Area
- The Szeptycki Family
- The Kurek family
- Czerniecki Stanislaw
- Klymko Jan
- Rozycki Wladyslaw
- The Jurek Family
- The Ojak Family
- Kreisberg Maria
- The Brzozowicz Family
- Choms Wladyslawa
- Siwek Antonina
- Wieth Irmgard
- The Witz family
- Kuron Henryk
- Prusakowa-Patkowska Aniela
- Kuryluk Karol
- The Debski Family
- Czuruk Boleslaw
- Weigl Rudolf Stefan
- Socha Leopold
- Wegrzynowicz Remigiusz
- The Czolowski Family
- The Szczygiel Family
- The Kuras Family
- The Bieliński Family
- The Jakubowski Family
- The Ojak Family
- The Dymek and Kolano Family
- Sobol Jozefa
- Rotter Helena
- The Roziewicz Family
- Dąbrowski Władysław