The Latoszynski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Latoszynski Family

Prior to the war the Cytryniarz family lived in Warsaw, where they ran two shops behind the Iron Gate, one with women's clothing and the other with household equipment. Mojżesz (Mojsze) Cytryniarz, his wife Hana (née Goldberg) and three children: Fela (Felicja) (1926-1943?), Bronisław (1928-1942?) and Artur lived with their grandmother Hawa Goldberg in a three-room apartment in Ogrodowa Street, at the edge of the future Warsaw ghetto. The children attended Polish schools and Polish was used in the household, even though the grandmother only spoke Yiddish.

Jerzy and Eugenia Latoszyński lived in the village of Lendo Wielkie (post town Wola Gułowska, Lubelskie Province). They owned the largest manor estate in the area. Jerzy had a degree in agriculture and his wife came from a wealthy peasant family.

The Latoszyński family experienced considerable persecution under German occupation. Until the summer of 1943 Jerzy Latoszyński was incarcerated in the Gestapo prison in Dęblin. His brother was a prisoner at Auschwitz, and his sister was sent to forced labour in Germany. Eugenia's family – parents Jan and Leokadia Stachurski and brothers Henryk and Tadeusz – were arrested on 7 July 1943 in the village of Czernice for helping local partisans and Jewish runaways. They were all killed in German camps and prisons. In these tragic circumstances, in the autumn of 1943 the Latoszyńskis' daughter Teresa was born. In 1944 Eugenia gave birth to the second daughter, Elżbieta.

The Latoszyński manor provided refuge to Tadeusz Ciepliński, a law student from Lublin, and the Russian deserter Oleg (Janek). Teresa Podolak née Latoszyńska remembers that whenever her parents talked about the war, they would say: “that's how it was in those times, people had to help one another”.

After the Warsaw ghetto was established, distant relatives moved in with the Cytryniarz family. Although they tried to save some of their assets by hiding valuables in a wall, they lost everything and found themselves in an extremely difficult situation financially. The parents decided that the mother, daughter Fela, younger son Artur and cousin Sonia would move to the still functioning ghetto in Adamów (Łuków Municipality), where their relatives lived. The father, mother-in-law and son Bronisław remained in Warsaw, since their appearance could easily betray their Jewish origin.

According to Artur's account, they escaped from the Warsaw ghetto on 20 June 1941. The mother lived in the Adamów ghetto, while Fela, Sonia and Artur worked in the surrounding villages.

Faced with news of the impending liquidation of the ghetto, Hana Cytryniarz bought “Aryan” identity documents for herself and her daughter. Sonia returned to Warsaw and survived in hiding until the end of the war. Fela, on the other hand, stayed in the country, and then reported for work on a farm in Germany.

Hana, with her son and an older woman from Adamów, hid in the nearby forests. Artur also remembers returning to Warsaw with his mother, although they had to flee when she was recognized as a Jew. They spent several months hiding in Kasyldów, a village in the Krzywda Municipality, Łuków County. They were accepted under the roof of a poor Polish family. Artur's mother went out to beg in the neighbourhood, which was a huge risk, since she spoke Polish with a Jewish accent.

In July 1943 Hana Cytryniarz and Artur arrived at the Latoszyński house. Hana introduced the child as Antoś from Warsaw and asked for him to be employed as a cowherd. She herself helped with garden work. She left when she managed to find shelter in the neighbouring village. She worked as a peddler in the area, selling thread, needles and shoelaces, and helping with housework.

From time to time she visited the Latoszyński house, bringing clothes and shoes for her son. The household had very little food; only in the summer could Artur eat fruit and vegetables until he was full.

For two years Artur tended cows on the Latoszyński estate. He slept in the barn, the attic or the gardener's cottage. He constantly read books from the manor library, including novels by Karl May. He played with Teresa and helped with household chores. Artur constantly found excuses for not attending Sunday mass; he often said his shoes were too damaged to go to church.

The Latoszyński family were aware of the boy's Jewish origin. Thanks to his knowledge of prayers and Catholic songs as well as his “good appearance”, Artur did not raise any suspicion in the neighbourhood. In his speech from 2005 he stressed that “not once during those years did anyone say a word about my origin and what it would mean to the family if I was discovered”. However, in his recollections Artur writes about several instances when villagers visiting the mansion made suggestions about him being a Jew. Artur suspects that the discovery of his origins was inevitable from his mother's accent and her peddling job, commonly associated with Jews.

The Latoszyński family took necessary precautions: the boy was not allowed to play with children from the village, only with Władek Sołecki, son of a family living in manor labourers' quarters. “My parents were afraid he might accidentally say something that would give away his origin. He knew that, and he strictly obeyed the rule”, said Teresa Podolak. Sometimes, local partisans came to the manor house for food supplies, but there were also more dangerous visitors. One of the Latoszyński daughters remembers unexpected visits from the Germans looking for food to requisition: “During those terrible raids Antoś would hide behind my mother and look like another child of the family”.

In the spring of 1945 Artur's mother came to collect him. The boy found it difficult to part with the Latoszyński family. As they told Teresa, “he refused to go, cried, wanted to stay. He was used to us and thought of us as his family”.

The mother and son went to Żelechów first. Meanwhile, the mother married Jakub Osman, another Holocaust survivor. Faced with anti-Jewish violence in Żelechów, the family moved to Warsaw, to the Praga district. Later on, Artur spent a year in an orphanage in Zatrzebie.

In 1946 Artur and his mother crossed the Czech border near Wałbrzych. They reached the Heidenheim DP camp, located in the American occupation zone in Germany. At the camp, Artur, registered under the name “Aron Citrinasz”, attended courses in radio and technology organized by ORT and started to study English. He also borrowed books from a travelling American library.

Although Cytryniarz considered going to Israel, in 1949 he migrated to the US, where he changed his name to Arthur Citrin. He worked as an electrical engineer, started a family and had three daughters: Ruty, Emily and Debory, and son Marc with his wife Frances.

Artur's father, Mojsze, and his older brother Bronisław (Bronek) were deported from the Warsaw ghetto in the summer of 1942, and his sister Felicja died during forced labour near Magdeburg in Germany, where she was sent as a result of denunciation.

In September 2003 Artur Citrin visited Poland with his wife and children to find the village where he spent the last two years of German occupation. He could not remember the names of the people who rescued him. Documents from a Jewish orphanage found in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw helped him reach the village of Lendo Wielkie. A neighbour, Chmielewski, directed him to the mansion, which at the time belonged to the Latoszyński daughters, Teresa and Elżbieta. Artur left a letter on the door of the mansion, thanks to which Teresa managed to contact him.

The Latoszyński family had not forgotten Artur. Teresa Podolak concluded her statement from 2003 by saying: “I really wish my Mum was alive to see this moment; she seemed to sense that he was alive and often mentioned little Antoś”.

Citrin decided to inform Yad Vashem about the heroism of the Latoszyński family in order to thank them, as he wrote in May 2005, “for the gift of life that I received from them. What better way to do this than by honouring this noble family and immortalizing their names among the Righteous? They are being honoured for saving the life of one boy, but the Latoszyńskis should also be honoured and remembered for other acts of courage and altruism towards others, which were not mentioned here today, but are still well known to family and friends”.

In 2004 Yad Vashem decided to award Jerzy and Eugenia Latoszyński the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Arthur Citrin, My memoirs 1930-1948, New York
  • Klara Jackl, Interwiev with Arthur Citrin, 14.08.2014
  • Dziobkowska Dominika, Kasztanowiec dla Artka, „Gazeta Wyborcza-Lublin”, nr 119
    The story of Eugenia and George Latoszyńskich, posthumously honored with a medal for saving Arthur Citrin.