The Ojak Family

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Story of Rescue - The Ojak Family

Helena Sobkowiak was a newlywed when World War Two broke out. She lived in Czortków (today‘s Ukraine) and her then-husband Józef Ojak worked in a property protection company “Czuwaj”. During the war the couple lived in Tłuste.

A Jewish family named Hertman, owners of a big house on the hill and a shop in Tłuste, showed upon their doorstep probably in 1941. They asked the Ojaks to move to their house. Helena Sobkowiak does not know the Hertmans’ history in detail. One thing that is certain is that theybuilt a shelter under their house and let other Jews know about it. This is how two Jewish doctors, Baruch Milch and Jakub Weinles, came to know about the hiding place. They arrived in Tłuste in April 1944. The city had already been taken over by the Soviet army. Both doctors treated people who had been burnt by bombs dropped by the Germans on a local labor camp. However, the front line was very unstable. As the Nazi Army invaded Tłuste again, the doctors had to hide. They asked the Ojak family for help.

Baruch Milch and Jakub Weinles remained in the shelter for eight or ten days. During this time, Helena Sobkowiak brought them food: “I made some jello for them and gave it to them through a window. First I had to move a stone away and then I could hand them the food. And they would say, »We‘re not hungry for food, we had eaten some beets. We are hungry for news«”.

The Red Army invaded Tłuste again. The Jewish doctors were finally free. Józef Ojak joined the Polish Army and never returned from the war. Helena Sobkowiak, due to repatriation(resettling), settled in Wodzisław Śląski. Baruch Milch and Jakub Weinles, like many Jews from Tłuste who survived the war, emigrated to Israel.

After World War Two,Helena Sobkowiak kept in touch with one Jewish girlfriend, Binia Fajkenfik from Tłuste. Owing to Fajkenfik’s persuasion, Baruch Milch and Jakub Weinles requested Yad Vashem to honor the Ojaks with a medal and a title of the Righteous Among the Nations.