The Popowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Popowski Family

During World War II, the Popowski family lived in Warsaw, on Raszyńska Street, where Stanisław and Maria (nee Grabowska) rented a spacious apartment. From September 1939, they shared it with the Grzybowski family, owners of the property, and with numerous displaced relatived from Łódż and Gdynia. The family was active in the underground - Stanisław was a senior registrar at the Municipal Children’s Hospital on Śliska Street and taught paediatrics at the underground University of Warsaw and the Western Territories. He was also a member of the underground Liaison Committee of Democratic and Socialist Doctors. He was actively involved in saving children from  the Zamość regionand provided medication to prisoners in Pawiak and Auschwitz.

In that same apartment, the Popowski family hid many of their Jewish friends. They obatined false birth certificates for them. They tried to provide them with medical assistance and secure shelter. Stanisław Popowski, a member of Żegota, saved children from the Warsaw Ghetto, worked together with the Mother Matylda Getter (1870-1968) – Mother Superior for the Warsaw Province of the Francisan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

Their daughter, Hanna, raised in a leftist environment, amongst a liberal intelligencia, in a spirit of patriotism and tolerance, participated in her parents’ activities. Amongst those whom the Popowski family hid at the risk to their own lives was Hanna’s schoolmate, Bianka Perlmutter. Bianka was the only daughter of Arnold Perlmutter, an affluent entrepreneur, and  Stefania (nee Kranz), a paediatrician. The girls had met in 1936 at a private girls high school of the Wanda Posselt-Szachtmajer Foundation. Bianka, known as ”Janka” at school, was the only jewish girl in Hanna’s class.

Already, in the first months of the occupation, the Popowski family suggested to the Perlmutters that they look after Bianka. When the Perlmutter family found themselves in the ghetto, the parents arranged that the girls meet. Bianka’s mother died when she visited her sick child. Arnold Perlmutter asked the Popowski family for help in saving his daughter, whom he wished to place into safe hands after getting her out of the Warsaw ghetto, probably in the summer of 1942.

The girl stayed with the Popowski family for a few months and was treated as one of the family. When Bianka’s safety in the Popowski apartment became a concern not only for their relatives and friends, but also for the father’s patients, a birth certificate was prepared for her under the name ”Janina Marzec”. Popowski placed the girl under the care of Mother Matylda Getter, in the privincial headquarters at 53 Hoża Street. The Popowski family visited her in the Warsaw branch of the orphanage and also remainedin constant contact with her father who was in hiding with the Maklakiewicz family.

Amongst the Jews helped by the Popowski family were Maria’s schoolmates, many Jewish doctors and their families - Prof. Henryk Brokman, his wife and daughters who were living in Ochota, Janina Jasińska, daughter of the reknown Łódż doctor, Seweryn Sterling, Zofia Rudkowska-Fuchs and her husband, eweryn Oxner (Olszewski) with his Aniela his wife and Janek his son, Hanna Popowska’s peers. They also helped Prof. Ludwik Hirszfeld and his wife Hanna.

In an interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Hanna Taborska (nee Popowska) pointed to the character of the Warsaw intellencia environment which ensured relative safety for the hidden Jews. It was because ”these families, in the majority, were actively imvolved in various forms of resistance against the occupiers. There was a certain type of specific solidarity amongst the residents of the building (after all, it was big). It could be felt especially strongly during the days of the uprising”.

After the War ended, Bianka did not return to Poland. She went to her uncle in England and then went to live with relatives in the USA. She remained in close contact with those people who had enabled her to survive. She located the Popowski family through the Red Cross. Through a letter from Dr Popowski, she learned of the tragic circumstances of her father’s death. He had been denounced during the Warsaw Uprising. She exchanged letters with Mother Matylda Getter until the latter’s death in 1968. Following the death of Dr Popowski in 1953 and that of his wife in 1969, Bianka remained in contact with their daughter Hanna. At her initiative, the Popowski’s were awarded the title of ”Righteous Among the Nations”.

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Arnold Geier, Heroes of the Holocaust. Extraordinary True Accouts of Triumph., New York 1993
  • Gołębiowska Maria, Szpital Anny Marii w Łodzi. Zasługi dla pediatrii., Łódź 2005
  • Jakub Świetlik, Interview with Hanna Taborska, 2.07.2010