The Podgórski family

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Story of Rescue - The Podgórski family

Stefania Podgórska and her sister Helena lived in Przemyśl. Until the outbreak of WWII, Stefania worked at a shop owned by the Diamants, a Jewish family, as an aid and a shop assistant. She was on friendly terms with the Diamants which did not change during the German occupation.

In July 1942, the Germans created a ghetto in Przemyśl. The Diamants moved there. From that time onwards, they communicated with Stefania via letters. In one such letter, brothers Maksymilian and Henryk Diamant asked Stefania for help. They all agreed that Stefania was to prepare a place for them to hide in after they escaped from the ghetto. The outskirts of the city were the safest area to hide back then so Stefania and her sister left their apartment in the centre of Przemyśl and moved to the suburbs. They rented a detached house at ul. Tatarska 3.

In the summer of 1943, shortly before the liquidation of the Przemyśl ghetto, the Diamants managed to escape and get to Stefania’s place. They brought 13 other people with them. Stefania prepared a hiding place for them in the attic. After the war, Maksymilian Diamant recalled this as follows: “One of the walls of the attic was adjacent to a two-storey house and an extension wall with a crosswise beam and a low wall had been constructed next to it. There was a little bit of space between those two walls. I thought to myself that it would be possible to get more space and create a hiding place there for several people by constructing a similar fake wall. I needed planks for this. However, those had to be old planks, similar to the ones used for the existing wall [...]. I also needed bricks for a low wall. Stefa’s sister handled the matter of bricks [...]. The hiding place was intended for 7 people. We intended to bring that many with us. However, that number soon grew to 13. Those were: myself, my brother Zawadzki with his wife Danuta Karfiot, Jan Dorlich, Władysław Orlicz-Szylinger with his daughter Krystyna, Siunek and Leon Hirsz, Jeleński with his wife Krystyna, and Mrs Cymerman with two children - Cesia and Janek

Janek Zimmerman wrote about their everyday life in hiding: “There, in the attic, we hardly talked with one another. The sheet metal roof was hot during the day and it was cold at night.” The hiding people spent the days inside the hiding place or in the apartment of the Podgórski sisters because if they tried to go out, someone could denounce them. They would sometimes go out into the garden to get some fresh air and stretch their aching limbs.

During the day, Stefania worked at a production plant while Helena, her younger sister, looked after the people in hiding. She brought them meals and water for washing, washed their clothes, and removed waste. Stefania provided the Jews they were hiding with food. In order to avoid making the neighbours suspicious, she bought food at several places and brought it home at different times of the day. The Podgórski sisters realised that their neighbours must have suspected that they were hiding Jews but no one reported them to the Germans. In spite of the many difficulties they had to face, all people whom the Podgórski sisters hid survived the German occupation.

After the war was over, the sisters maintained contact with most of the Jews they saved. Maksymilian Diamant changed his name to Józef Burzmiński and married Stefania.

Bibliography

  • Hartman John J., Krochmal Jacek, Pamiętam każdy dzień… Losy Żydów przemyskich podczas II wojny światowej, Przemyśl 2002
  • W. Wierzbiniec, Losy przemyskich Żydów podczas II wojny światowej w relacjach świadków (z archiwum Yad Vashem w Jerozolimie)
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009