The Pyrek family

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Story of Rescue - The Pyrek family

The Germans organised a manhunt for Jews on 14 August 1942 in Bobowa. Estera, the stepmother of the eleven-year-old Samuel Oliner, told him to run away as fast as he could. In all the commotion, the boy managed to escape. He hid in the garret of his family house at first and, on the next day, when the German operation was over, he ran away to hide in the nearby fields. He wandered there, aimlessly and in solitude, and learned from people he met that the Germans had killed all Jews taken away from Bobowa – they shot them and buried them in a mass grave in the forest known as Garbacz near Stróżówka.

Confused and despairing at the news, Samuel looked for a safe shelter. After some time, he arrived at the village of Bystra and went to the house of Balbina Piecuch-Pyrek who had been a friend of his family before the war. He knew her because Balbina used to attend the same school as Samuel’s father and they were great friends then.

The woman lived with her son Stanisław and daughter Zofia. She agreed to help Samuel right after she saw him. Samuel recalled this as follows: “She took me in, she soothed me and bolstered my courage. She fed me and hid me in the garret of her house. After a couple of days, she also changed my name to a typically Polish one: Józef Polewski”.

Balbina also taught him the sign of the cross and prayers so that people would think he was a Catholic. She found a job for him – he was to work as a helper at a farmstead in the nearby village of Bieśnik. On weekdays, he stayed with the childless couple for whom he worked. The family lived in a house which belonged to Jews before. Samuel did not tell them about his background and said that he was from an impoverished Polish family living around 40 kilometres from Bieśnik.

Stanisław Pyrek sometimes visited Samuel, claiming to be his brother. Samuel would return to the house of Balbina Piecuch-Pyrek on some Saturdays and Sundays and during holidays. He was treated like a member of the family there. Stanisław would warn Samuel about German manhunts and searches for Jews and show him a safe hiding place in the forest. Samuel returned from the forest when it was safe again.

He managed to survive the war. After the end of the war, he emigrated to the USA. He stayed in touch with Stanisław Pyrek.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Balbiny Piecuch i Stanisława Pyrka, 349/24/1504
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009