Story of Rescue - Orlowska Anna
Before the war, Anna Orłowska was active in the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association. She lived in Modlin near Warsaw with her husband - lieutenant Zdzisław Marek. When World War II broke out, Anna with her baby daughter Grażyna went to Borszczów, where her sister Gertruda Górowicz lived with her daughter Danuta.
In the summer 1941, when Borszczów found itself under the German occupation, Anna, since she knew the German language, found a clerical job. She became an assistant to the German administrator of local estates. As that job made it possible for her to move around freely, she took advantage of it for the purpose of helping Jews.
At the end of 1941, Bella Hessing and her sister Lola (Lea) came to Anna and her sister. Orłowska knew Bella - the woman was a tailor, she sewed for her and her neighbours. Eli Hessing, Bella’s husband, was called up to the army and there was no news of him. Blima Mandel, the sisters’ mother, was killed during one of the first operations in Borszczów. Bella and Lola remained under the care of Orłowska and her sister until the end of the war. They remained in the house all the time and, in case of danger, hid in the attic and in a shed concealed behind a wardrobe. For Grażyna, Orłowska’s daughter, Bella and Lola were “beloved aunties”. The help which the Jewish women were provided was completely voluntary, Bella and Lola did not have anything. Interviewed by the Jewish daily Jedijot Achronot in 1984, on the occasion of her visit to Israel and the meeting with Bella, Orłowska underlined that she had been aware that catching the sisters would mean inevitable death for all of them. “My parents taught me always to finish what we had started”.
Anna and Gertruda also helped other Jews voluntarily. They hid them in shelters arranged at home or on the farm, intermediated in obtaining false documents, arranged medical help. They provided Jews hiding in bunkers in nearby forests with food and other necessary things. They hid, among others, the family of doctor Szalom (Luni) Rosenblat (1897-1942), his wife Blima Bartfeld-Rosenblat (1900-1944?) and son Arnold (Aron) (1931-1944?). After a time, that family went to the village of Wierzchniakowce in the Borszczów district, where they were murdered. Only Natan Bartfeld - Blima’s brother, whom Orłowska hid in a shed, survived the war.
Orłowska also sheltered a little daughter of doctor Julian (Joel) Bodian (1909-1943) and his wife Tamara (Tyszka) (1912-1943) named Rifka (Edytka) (1941-1943). Shortly before the end of the war, the 2-year old child was taken by the parents to their shelter, which was soon discovered. They were all murdered by Ukrainian partisans.
In July 1944, when Borszczów was liberated from the German occupation, Orłowska and her sister left to the West, accompanying her fiancé, Kazimierz Orłowski. Eventually, Anna and Gertruda settled down in Warsaw, whilst Bella and Lola lived in Lower Silesia after the war.
Lola married Icchak Nagler, who had survived the Holocaust, but lost his first wife and children. Anna was also invited to Lola’s wedding. After the birth of the son Mojżesz (1949-2002), Lola and her family left to Israel. Bella, whose husband Eli Hessing returned from the front, did not obtain the permission to leave. The spouses tried to cross the border illegally; however, they were arrested and put in prison on Mokotowska Street. Orłowska intermediated in arranging legal assistance for them, visited them in prison and made a deposition on the fate of Bella during the war. Having been released from prison, the Hessings left first to Eli’s family in Western Berlin and then to Israel. The sisters, Bella and Lola, settled in Kityat Ata.
Orłowska underlined in her testimony of 1982 that she had helped the sisters, Bella and Lola, “out of sympathy and deep understanding of their cruel fate. It was also a kind of deep, internal protest against the criminal evil which the Nazi murderers declared to be their law by which the people in occupied countries were unconditionally bound.”
In 1983, the Yad Vashem Institute granted Anna Orłowska the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Orłowska kept in touch with Bella and Lola, first through William Metzker, the Hessings’ relative in the USA, and then through Lola’s son, who arranged her visit to Israel in 1984.
For many years, Orłowska was an active member of the Main Board of the Polish Society of the Righteous Among the Nations.
- Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 152