Ogonek Family

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Story of Rescue - Ogonek Family

During the Second World War Janina and Piotr Ogonek were living with their three sons in the village of Biskupice Melsztyńskie near Tarnów. In 1942 they took in the 7-year-old Gizela Epstein, an orphan whose parents and sister were killed by the Nazis in 1942.

Earlier Gizela had been hiding at the house of her aunt Blanka in Cracow, but it soon turned out to be necessary to find a new hiding place for her – the old one became too dangerous, as Blanka used to work for the Germans. The girl was taken to her aunt’s friends, the Ogoneks, by Franciszek Karaś from a village near Wojnicz.

During the hiding, the girl used to be called Krysia. The Ogoneks dyed her hair blonde. At first she was only hid behind the stove when someone came to the house. Later, as the neighbors became suspicious and the Nazis often appeared in the neighborhood – she had to stay in her hiding places in the barn, in a dugout and in the attic for the whole time. Janina used to bring her food.

The Ogonek family was afflicted by the so-called “szmalcowniks” – people who blackmailed hiding Jews and Poles who offered them shelter. The Gestapo kept visiting their house and Piotr Ogonek was arrested and beaten up by the Nazis – probably because the neighbors denounced him. However, the girl was not found and she had been living with the Ogoneks for 3 years, until the end of the occupation.

After the war her aunt Blanka sent Gizela to Bratislava and later they left to Belgium together. In 1951 Gizela emigrated to Israel, where she lives to this day. She got married in 1958 and took her husband’s surname Levy. She has two children.

After the war her aunt remained in contact with the Ogoneks. Gizela did not write to them for a long time – which she still regrets. In 2009 she found and visited their family. Thanks to her efforts the Ogoneks were honored with the medal “Righteous Among the Nations”.