The Orlowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Orlowski Family

During the Nazi occupation in Lublin, the married couple of the Orłowskis rescued a Jewish boy named Nechemia Nisenbaum (born in December 1928), who was the son of their neighbors, Zerach and Rachela née Blumensztok.

During World War II Jan Orłowski (born in 1911, died in 1973), his wife Katarzyna née Pyrz (born in 1911, died in 1980) and their three little children lived at 70 Kalinowszczyzny Street in Lublin. They were lodged in two small rooms in the same house where Tadeusz Zięba, a baker, and his cousin lived. Jan was a manual laborer, while his wife tried to earn extra money selling goods.

At the beginning of 1942 Jan Orłowski and Tadeusz Zięba hid their neighbor, a fourteen-year-old boy called Nechemia Nisenbaum. We do not know why they decided to help him. At that time there were already two Jewish girls, Małka Akerman and Dina Herszeborn, hiding in the baker’s apartment. In the period from 1942 to 1944 the Nazis had searched the building three times, but luckily to no avail.

The Orłowski family kept the boy until the end of the Nazi occupation, hiding him in different places: in a closet, in the attic above a shut-down bakery or in a mansard, which could be accessed via a door concealed behind a wardrobe. Throughout the week in January 1944 Jan and Katarzyna Orłowski also harbored Dina Herszeborn, who gave birth to a child at their home.

After the liberation Nechemia Nisenbaum emigrated first to Palestine and then to Argentina in 1958. He settled down in Buenos Aires, set up home and worked as a painter. He tried to establish contact with his rescuers, but all his letters came back with the annotation “unknown addressee”.

After the death of the Orłowskis, Nechemia finally managed to contact their daughter Anna Jesionowska in the mid-1980s. This was possible thanks to the help of his friend, Kopel Mizyrycki.

Since then it was Kopel who corresponded with Anna on behalf of Nechemia, who had already forgotten the Polish language. In his letters the Rescued recalled the times when he was hiding from his persecutors and remembered Anna, who used to bring him food to the attic. She was then only five or seven years old.Until his very death Nehemia had been sending various small gifts to his adoptive family “from a man (…) who the Orłowski family saved during the war, risking their very lives in the event the Nazis learnt about their doings”. Nechemia died of cancer on 21 February 1998.

For years Anna has been trying to honor her parents with the title of Righteous among the Nations, but the Yad Vashem Institute has been declining her requests for form’s sake.