The Marciszczuk Family

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Story of Rescue - The Marciszczuk Family

Piotr Marciszczuk and his family paid a heavy price for hiding Jews: Piotr’s father lost his life, and the family’s homestead was burned to the ground. “Despite these experiences, however, I am proud to have been able to provide assistance to those in need,” wrote Piotr, years later, in a statement for the Jewish Historical Institute.

The Marciszczuks (father – Jan, mother – Anna, and son – Piotr) lived in the Tarnopol Voivodeship, 3km from the town of Szczurowice (in present-day Ukraine).

Their home and “modest mill” stood on the outskirts of town, at the edge of the woods. However, they were constantly visited by people – Poles, Jews, Ukrainians. “It made no difference; everyone lived in peace and harmony,” recounts Piotr Marciszczuk.

At the time at which Marciszczuk wrote down his recollections, Poland was still under Communist rule. This most likely explains why, in his account, the idyll was not disrupted until 23 June 1941. It was then that German troops first arrived in the area of Szczurowice. “Ethnic exterminations began right away. The first to fall victim were the Jews and the Poles. Ukrainians, on the other hand, became the Germans’ collaborators. You couldn’t tell who your friends were, anymore.”

Then came the mass executions of Jews. Says Piotr: “During one round-up, a few people were able to escape to the woods. We learned that they were near our house. Father began taking food out to them in the evenings.

“One day, somebody knocked on our window. It was a group of Jews – people my father was acquainted with.” Mendel Friedman, his son Izaak, Klara Hart, and her five- or six-year old daughter asked the Marciszczuks for shelter.  “Our family expanded,” writes Piotr.

The Germans were spreading fear. “They often drove by to ask whether we were hiding Jews. ‘If we find any, then you’re all going to the grave along with them,’” They threatened. Fortunately, they didn’t search the house. Had they done so, they would easily have found what they were looking for: “at that time, the Jews were staying in the attic (right over the Germans’ heads), because we hadn’t prepared a proper shelter, yet.”

After these visits, an underground shelter was constructed. The situation remained precarious, however: a portion of the Ukrainian population became engaged in hunting Jews (“so as to loot their possessions and kill them off”).

Fifteen-year-old Piotr Marciszczuk served as a courier between those in hiding and a Roman Catholic priest named Mazak. Among other things, he conveyed information and news. “We all rejoiced at any adversity the Germans faced.” But just before the liberation, tragedy struck. The Marciszczuk’s home was burned to the ground … by Jews.

It was an accident. Someone knocked a lamp over in the shelter. The kerosene spilled, a fire broke out. Those inside managed to escape but “everything burned down.” All they were able to salvage was a pig and a horse. The Marciszczuks received assistance from family and from the priest. “Whatever father was able to obtain, he shared with the Jews [we were hiding].”

The Russians soon arrived on the scene, but not before Ukrainian nationalists had a chance to exact revenge upon the Marciszczuks. To punish them for hiding Jews, they killed Piotr’s father. The rest of the family, together with the Harts and Friedmans, took refuge in Łopatyń, which was already under Red Army control. For everyone involved, it was the start of a long journey. The Jewish families emigrated to America. The Marciszczuks, meanwhile, left for the so-called Recovered Territories of Poland.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 279
  • Mojkowski Karol, Interview with Piotr Marciszczuk, 20.04.2009
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009