Nelken-Zaluska Wanda

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Story of Rescue - Nelken-Zaluska Wanda

During the occupation, Wanda Nelken lived in Cracow. She did not resettle to the ghetto in the Podgórze district even if the wartime law made it incumbent on her: her father, a pre-war Polish Socialist Party activist, was a Jew.

She found a hiding place in Warsaw, became a member of the Home Army. She survived the Warsaw Rising. At the command of the underground organization, on many occasions she would enter the Warsaw Ghetto passing through the court premises in Leszno Street. It was her, among other people, who suggested to Janusz Korczak that he should hide on the “Aryan side” of the town. She was cooperating with the underground Polish Socialist Party, which contained a unit producing forged documents. Wanda Załuska’s responsibility was to deliver the documents. Wanda was taking out of the ghetto Jewish children from the orphanages run by Janusz Korczak. Whenever she went on the “Aryan side”, she had an escort of the Home Army soldiers who would drive away the szmalcowniks (blackmailers)hanging around the ghetto. Jewish children were entrusted to Polish families for adoption.

“What was the most painful experience back then”, recalls Wanda, “was to look at defenceless children, at the helplessness of their parents and their mothers who were entrusting their dearest ones to such an inexperienced girl as myself. No matter if one did the right thing or not – I will always remember the eyes of those mothers”.

Among other things, Wanda taught the rescued ones how to behave in a church not to look suspicious. “I started teaching religion”, recalls Wanda Załuska, “so that the rescued ones knew how to pray should somebody ask them to. I had to give them some means of self-defence, that is why there were those forged documents provided, lessons about Christianity and liturgy...”After the Warsaw Rising, Wanda found a hiding place in her native Cracow where she could rely on help from her friends. After the war she settled down in Warsaw.


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