The Ojak Family

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Story of Rescue - The Ojak Family

Before the outbreak of World War II, Barbara and Izaak Gamzer lived in Lviv, where they ran a confectionery. They had 8-year-old daughter Aurelia (called Lusia). The family was of Jewish origin.The Gamzers employed Franciszek Ojak to work in their confectionery.In 1941, the German forces began to occupy Lviv and set up a ghetto in the city. In this situation, the Gamzers asked for help two friendly families: Franciszek and Tekla Ojak and Bolesław and Irena Szczygieł. The two families decided to help the Jews. The Szczygiełs hid Lusia, while the Ojaks – Barbara and Izaak.The main initiator of the rescue was Franciszek Ojak, who led the Gamzer family out of the ghetto. Their daughter Lusia was transported to the “Aryan” part of the city by Joanna Szczygieł. The Szczygiełs visited the fugitives and provided them with food and information about their daughter.

However, the Gamzers could not stand the separation from their child.After about 8 months, they asked the Ojak family to accept also their daughter under their roof. Additional argument for the transfer was the fact that the hiding place in the Szczygiełs’ house was no longer safe – one of the neighbors noticed the girl, so the danger of denunciation became very probable.

By the time the Red Army marched into Lviv in July 1944, the Gamzer family had reunited at the Ojaks' home. The apartment consisted of a room, kitchen and bathroom. Still, dangerous situations did occur.In her interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Mrs. Joanna Załucka, daughter of Irena and Bolesław Szczygieł, recollects one of such situations:one time a run-away from the convoy hid in the vicinity of the house. The Germans began to search the nearby tenement houses.“The Ojaks almost fainted from fear. They hid the Gamzers in the bathroom. There was a large washtub on the floor, and the other hanging from the ceiling, so the Jews hid in this washtub near the wall. This was their hiding place. Of course, had the Germans entered the bathroom, they would have surely discovered the Jews. But they did not enter it, they did not need to.I do not know whether they found this poor fellow or not, but the inspection was to no avail.”

Life in hiding required observation of rigorous safety precautions.“In the Ojak family, one of these precautions was to use only one plate and one spoon. When they ate, they did it in turns from one and the same plate. If there were more plates and utensils, this might be an indication that there were more people living in the house, am I right?”

Soon after the Red Army seized control over Lviv, the Gamzers and Lusia left Poland. They departed for Germany, and then moved to the USA. Lusia changed her name into Ruth and married Jan Gruener – one of the survivals from the ghetto in Cracow. They had 2 sons. After the war, Tekla Ojak moved to Gliwice, where Ruth paid her a visit.In 2005, Ruth and her family again left Poland to meet Mrs. Joanna Załucka. The meeting of Lusia and Joanna took place after 60 years of separation. To this day, they phone and write letters to each other.

Bibliography

  • Mojkowski Karol, Interview with Joanna Załucka, 20.06.2009