Kwiatkowska-Biernacka Wanda

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Story of Rescue - Kwiatkowska-Biernacka Wanda

During World War II Wanda Kwiatkowska lived with her parents, Bolesława and Aleksander, and her younger sister Leokadia (Lotka) (b. 1924) in Warsaw at 8 Michałowska Street in Praga district.

Before the war, Wanda was active in the Union of Independent Socialist Youth and Polish Socialist Party. In the socialist circles she met the activist, Zdzisław Siudyła (1915-1943), who was later engaged, among other things, in the delivery of weapons to the Warsaw ghetto.

In 1940, in Siudyła’s apartment, she met Benon Jonas, who used the name Eugeniusz Gdowski on the so-called Aryan side. In the autumn of 1940, the Jonas family was forced to move to the ghetto and lived at Żelazna Street. After a few weeks Benon decided to escape to the so-called Aryan side. His wife Bronisławaand their two sons, seven-year-old Stanisław and baby Andrzej, remained in the ghetto. Benon went to Lvov, engaged in smuggling and transferred parcels of food for his family in the ghetto. He also made false documents for sale.

In the summer of 1942, Jonas asked Wanda Kwiatkowska to find a hiding place for his family, after his wife and sons managed to get out of the ghetto on 14 August 1942 - during the Great Liquidation.

Initially, Bronisława, Stanisławand Andrzej found shelter with Bronisława’s school friend, Nina Blusiewiczowa, who lived in Mokotów, at Willowa Street. Although they managed to get false documents, the Jonas family was blackmailed on several occasions, and they had to move from one place to another. For several months they lived in Wieliszew, near Legionowo. Advised of the denunciations against them, they were forced to separate.

Benon, who was registered at the Kwiatkowskich family, lived there for a few months. Bronisława first lived with a friend of Wanda’s - Alicja Szlendak – at Stalowa Street in Warsaw, and then with her cousin, Zofia Michalak-Pragier in Ożarów in Warsaw. Stanisław Jonas went to Pabierowice near Grójec, while Andrzej moved along with Wanda and her family. Wanda went to take the two-year-old child and brought him to Kwiatkowskich house. The boy remained under their loving care from mid-1943 until March 1945.

Andrzej’s older brother, Stanisław, also lived with Wanda for some time. He appeared when the boys’ mother was arrested, and her carers feared that Bronisława may give away their address under torture. She was released after paying a high ransom. Kwiatkowscy were also blackmailed at that time. After a month Stanisław went to Ożarów near Warsaw, then he was taken back to Pabierowice. Wanda helped the family members to keep in touch.

She also took care ofJonas’s sister-in-law, Barbara, who escaped from the ghetto, carrying her two-year-old daughter, Elżbieta, who was sedated with luminal, in a backpack. Wanda helped her in getting false documents and renting an apartment, and put Elżbieta in the Boduen orphanage at Nowogrodzka Street, where the child survived the war. Wanda’s cousin, Helena Michalak,a Sister of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul,helped  her contact the institution.

Apart from the family of Benon Jonas, Wanda also helped the four-person family of Szereszewscy: Leon (1890-1943?), his wife Stefania (née Nisenson), and their two children – Ryś (1928-1943?) and Piotr (1936-1943) - who before the war had a yeast manufacturing plant in Henryków near Warsaw and an estate in Wola Krzysztoporska near Piotrków Trybunalski. Wanda helped them to get documents and find a house on the so-called Aryan side. For a long time they lived with her uncle, Jan Michalak, in Nowa Wieś near Warsaw. In 1943 Szereszewscy came to Hotel Polski and died in Auschwitz.

Wanda also supported Jola Peres and her husband – a lawyer Jan Peres. They lived with Kwiatkowscy for several months, from August 1942. Szpilfoglowa also stayed in the apartment. They all had to move out as a result of suspicion and denunciation threats from neighbours. Jola survived the war and moved to Italy.

Wanda also went to Lvov– carrying letters, documents and money at the request of Zbigniew Mitzner (1910-1968) and Józefa Wnukowa (1911-2000). She led the father of Artur Nacht (1898-1974), who was hiding in Warsaw under the name of Stefan Samborski, out of the Lvov ghetto and brought him to Warsaw. Wanda’s friend, Edward Chądzyński, who worked in the Municipality Board and had access to the records of deceased persons, helped her to obtain documents.
 
After the liberation, Bronisława Jonas lived with her sons in Warsaw and Benon started a new family in Katowice. The Jonas family maintained cordial relations with Wanda and her family.

Barbara Palatyńska mentioned that Wanda’s help was completely selfless. In an account written in 1982, Andrzej Jonas stressed that his mother "repeatedly stated that this was his real family." In 2011 Stanisław Jonas said: "I managed to survive the war with the help of good and brave people." In August 1945 Wanda wrote an account for the Jewish Committee about her activities, in which she stated: "During the German occupation, my family and I helped Jews in the severe times of the Nazi persecutions." In 1982 Wanda wrote a detailed account entitled The participation of my family and me in helping Jews during the German occupation in 1940-1945.

In 1984 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award Wanda Kwiatkowska-Biernacka with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 218
  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.