The Nestorowicz Family

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Story of Rescue - The Nestorowicz Family

Łucja Nestorowicz’s family knew the Szteins in pre-war times. Siepsiel Sztein, a well-to-do fur trader, along with his wife and daughter Bela, spent several summer holidays on the Nestorowicz family’s farm, some three miles outside Międzyrzecz, in the Podlasie province. 

Łucja was a close friend of Bela. When war broke out, they lost contact.  

In the spring of 1942 the fifteen year-old Łucja, passing the wires of the Międzyrzecz ghetto, caught sight of Bela. They could only talk for a moment, because a Jewish policeman was standing close by, one Bela only knew by sight. Łucja decided get her old friend out of the ghetto. She convinced her family to take Bela in. 

Bela’s escape from the ghetto took place on a Sunday - as Łucja remembers – so that the girls could mingle with the crowd leaving church. Their attempt was successful. 

For the first fortnight, the girls lived together in one room. Bela later had a hiding place in the barn. "When one entered the barn, nothing out of the ordinary could be seen, but she was there … And during the day, because it was a beautiful summer, she went out into the fields and sat around the whole day”. - Lucja remembers. The Nestorowicz family concealed Bela from May to October 1942. In the autumn, equipped with a fake ID, she left together with Łucja's brother Stanisław to find work in Germany. Until the end of the war, she worked in the German countryside as a nanny. 

Two days after Bela’s departure, her parents appeared at the Nestorowicz farm. The Nestorowicz family told them about bunkers in the forest belonging to one of their neighbours. The Szteins joined the six Jews already hiding there. The Nestorowicz family helped by supplying them with food, and also occasionally laundered their clothes. 

In the spring of 1944 the people hiding from the Nazis had to abandon another bunker. "They had no money, but entered local barns and slept there at night. Well, somehow no one chased them away. They were afraid, but fortunately these eight people survived to the end of the war (…) They were very poor, so poor that even today I can hardly bear to think about them and see those terrible eyes, terrified, sad eyes. It was something terrible, you know?” - Łucja remembers.  

After the war, almost all the eight Jews from the bunker left Poland. Bela lives in Australia. She and Łucja reestablished contact in 1990 and have been in touch ever since.