The Pietruszka Family

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Story of Rescue - The Pietruszka Family

Andrzej and Helena Pietruszka, together with their sons Czesław, Władysław and Roman, lived on the outskirts of the village of Łajsce, in the Jasło District, not far from Kraków. Apart from running a small farm, Andrzej worked in the paraffin mine in Borysław and in the Jasło area.

The Pietruszka family were on friendly terms with two related Jewish families, who lived in the same locality: the Lehrman (Lerman) family and the Weiss family. The Lerman family ran a wayside inn in Łajsce, while the Weiss family ran a small trading business.

During the first half of 1942, the Germans established a ghetto in Nowy Żmigród  to which were deported Jews from the surrounding localities, among them Jews from the village of Łajsce. As a result, more than two thousands Jews founds themselves in the ghetto, living under harsh conditions and hungry.

The Pietruszka family stayed in contact with the Lerman family and provided them with food. On the 7th July 1942, the ghetto was brutally liquidated. Over 1,200 Jews, in particular the sick, the elderly and the children, were shot in a mass grave near the village of Hałbów. The Lermans’ parents perished in this manner. The remaining Jews were transported to slave labour camps in Zasław and Płaszów and to the extermination camp in Bełżec.

During the liquidation of the ghetto, three of the seven Lerman children managed to escape. The eldest, Dawid, and his younger sisters, Chaja (Hela)and Maria, reached the Pietruszka home. Roman Pietruszka, in an interview with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, recalls that moment, ”They came to us – where else would they go? I’m sure that they looked in other places for somewhere to hide. The two younggirls didn’t want to die.“

For them, as well as for two other escapees (one of them a wealthy merchant form Kraków), the family prepared a hiding-place in the barn. They also helped other Jews from neighbouring villages who had tried to survive in the nearby forests. They stayed for there for most of the time, but when danger appeared in the form of searches, they fled and hid in the fields and in the nearby forests. Even then, the Pietruszka sons continued to provide them with food.

In the summer, the Jews would hide in the attic of the house, However, during the freezing winter nights, when the roads were covered in snow, they would be invited into the house. Over two years, the Pietruszka family catered to all the needs of five Jews.

After the War, because of damage to their own home, the Pietruszka family moved to Jedlicze near Krosno and lived in a house given to them by surviving Jews from the local community. The Lerman family lived in a neighbouring house. They then left for the USA, leaving all their assets, including the wayside inn, those who had cared for them. Over many years, they remained in contact with the Pietruszka family, sending them parcels and letters.

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Żulikowski Piotr, Interview with Roman Pietruszka, a son of Helena Pietruszka, 6.08.2010