The Kurek family

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Story of Rescue - The Kurek family

Zofia and Józef Kurek, together with their five children: Tadeusz (aged 21), Stanisław (aged 15), Helena (aged 14), Janina (aged 6), and Zdzisław (aged 4), lived in Zubrza near Lviv. They earned a living for themselves by working the land.

They started harbouring five Jewish fugitives from the Ostbahn-Ausbesserungswerk (OAW) camp in Lviv in the autumn of 1943. Those people lived in Lviv before the war. They were: Leon Kobyliwker, Szlojme Kobyliwker, Wolf Bergman, Jakub Szechter, Mojżesz Bergman (from Lviv, aged 55). Maria Lachowicz, a relative of one of those Jews on the run to whom they came at first, suggested that they should go to the house of the Kurek family as they might find shelter there. In October 1943, Mojżesz Finkelsztajn, a fugitive from the Janowska concentration camp in Lviv who was sent to the Kureks by Anna Motylewska, joined the refugees.

Helena Budzińska, née Kurek, Józef’s and Zofia’s daughter, recalled after the war: “The Jews were placed inside an especially prepared hiding place in the attic above the cowshed. Straw was taken from there and used to insulate it and, in order to ensure that some light and fresh air could get inside, one brick was knocked out from the wall”.

Her father and one of her brothers prepared the hiding place while her mother and Helena herself cooked meals and brought them to the hiding place, did the laundry, and repaired clothes of the fugitives.

According to a statement made by Stanisław Kurek, the Jews hiding in the cowshed would not lie low and talked in loud voices which made the neighbours suspicious. This is why, in time, rumour started spreading throughout the village that the Kurek family was hiding Jews. Due to this, a decision was made to prepare a new hiding place – a dugout in the field of the Kureks – for the safety of the Jews and their helpers.

The people in hiding stayed in the dugout only for some time. Water pooled at the bottom of that shelter due to spring thaw – it made staying there over any longer periods of time impossible and posed a serious threat to the health of anyone who would. They were moved to a dugout dug in the barn. They entered it from the side of the cowshed, which was adjacent to the barn. While in that dugout, like in their previous hiding place, they continued to talk with one another too loud, sometimes even arguing, so they had to be moved to yet another hiding place. They were hidden in a copse of trees located close to the house of the Kureks. They only remained there for two weeks - it turned out that delivering food to them without the local people knowing was too difficult. They were moved again to the hiding place in the barn and remained there until the end of the war.

Tadeusz Kurek, who took up illegal trade in order to support his family, was caught by the Gestapo and tortured in several places, including as a jail in Lviv. Thanks to the efforts of his parents and thanks to a bribe that was paid, he was not transported to KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. Due to the poor financial standing of the Polish family, the Jews they were hiding had to bear some of the expenses connected with food.

Leon Kobyliwker, Szlojme Kobyliwker, Wolf Bergman, Jakub Szechter, Mojżesz Bergman, and Mojżesz Finkelsztajn saw the end of the German occupation. They left Poland after the war. They contacted the Kureks only sporadically.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Józefa, Zofii, Stanisława i Tadeusza Kurków, 349/24/1675 oraz 349/24/1850
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009