The Misiewicz Family

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Story of Rescue - The Misiewicz Family

A June night in 1943. “The dog started to bark. Mama stepped outside and found an unkempt, unshaven man with a little girl in front of our door,” recalls Janina Misiewicz, who was eleven at the time. Her family lived near Tarnopol, in a house on the outskirts of town.

It was precisely because of this that Dawid Bien came knocking on their door. He had come from the Tarnopol ghetto. Occasionally, he was allowed to leave it in order to cart away trash and obtain provisions. That particular night, he had brought along his three-year-old daughter Lunia.

Janina’s mother recognized him. Before the War, Dawid had been a butcher. Rozalia Misiewicz had sometimes done her groceries in his shop.  Together with her husband, she decided the Misiewiczes would take Lunia into their care.  Soon thereafter, Dawid came knocking again. This time, he was with his wife Fanny, and here sister Lora. They had escaped the ghetto just before its liquidation, and were now begging for help.

The Misiewiczes’ initial reaction? Terror. Rozalia was the first to overcome her fear. “Rózia, do you want to put your entire family in danger?” her husband Adam asked. But she had made her decision, and Adam complied. Together with his father-in-law he dug a shelter for the Biens near the Misiewicz home.

Only little Lunia stayed with the Misiewiczes themselves.  She now became the supposed daughter of a Polish family murdered by Ukranian nationalists. From then on, the family had to do loads of laundry at night, hanging them to dry in the attic; they had to “seek out sustenance.” Adam worked at a mill and would sneak grain out in his pockets. He had many mouths to feed.

During 1944, Tarnopol repeatedly passed between German and Russian hands. The Russians conscripted Adam into the People's Army of Poland. “We entered a time of terrible poverty,” recalls Janina. Rozalia now became the only breadwinner for the Polish-Jewish family. She was able to obtain kerosene and matches somewhere; in turn, she exchanged these for bread and milk. She peddled and traded. The household was left in the care of twelve-year-old Janina.

Tarnopol was once again taken over by German troops. They began to suspect the Misiewiczes of hiding … Russians. They found no one, but burned the house down just in case.

The Misiewiczes were left with nothing, but they had managed to save the Biens. “They did it out of a Christian sense of mercy,” wrote Dawid Bien in 1962, having emigrated with his family to Canada.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 195
  • Kempa-Kurkiewicz Marta, Interview with Janina Zwolicka, 28.03.2009
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009