Sokolowska Anna

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Story of Rescue - Sokolowska Anna

Being already a widow with three children, Anna Sokołowska moved to Poland in 1918, after the revolution in Russia.She first lived in Warsaw, then in Miechów and from 1928 in Nowy Sącz. There, until 1939, she taught Polish at the 2nd Secondary School for Men, the Vocational School for Women and the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception’s Secondary School. She was called the “Grandma” by her students. “She taught with passion, she knew how to reach the hearts and minds of youth and how to make them love Polish literature. Everyone valued and loved their teacher,” recalled one of the Sisters of Immaculate Conception from the convent in Nowy Sącz.

In 1939, some 10,000 Jews lived in Nowy Sącz, making up about 30% of the town’s population. In August 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in the town.After a year, in August 1942, most of the ghetto inhabitants were transported to the Bełżec death camp. Anna’s daughter Alina Skotnicka has established that her mother “soon after the Germans entered Nowy Sącz used her numerous contacts with various communities in the town to help Jewish people, including in particular all her former students.” For example, a few days before the liquidation of the Nowy Sącz ghetto, she warned Regina Riegelhaupt-Kempińska, who was eight months pregnant, about the danger. This way she saved her life and the life of her unborn child.

When the war broke out, she was dismissed from the teacher job. She started to be involved in the Polish Underground in Nowy Sącz and later in the local unit of the Council for Aid to Jews “Żegota."After the liquidation of the Nowy Sącz ghetto, she helped hiding Jews in collaboration with some former students of hers from the town and the county, arranging flats and hideouts for them. Her flat at 10 Szujskiego Street became a place where Jews could find temporary shelter until they acquired the so-called Aryan documents or until they were secretly transported abroad.

Sokołowska arranged food, clothing and medicines. One of the reasons for her help, beside her kindness and openness, was also her acquaintance with pre-war Jewish students and their families.Additionally, she took care of the sick and wounded and arranged shelters for children. “The fact that this old lady with poor and aching legs is a liaison between Cracow and Nowy Sącz and Jasło, that she endures the hardships and dangers of travel in those times – was something to be admired. She went to Cracow under the cover of transporting drugs to local pharmacies. She confided in me once: ‘They often stay for the night at my place - it is so nice to have them by me’” recalled one of Sisters of Immaculate Conception in Nowy Sącz.

The Gestapo found and detained two young Jewish women who were hiding in Sokołowska’s flat.They were arrested and executed. After the investigation, the Germans also arrested Sokołowska. She testified, however, that she knew nothing of the women’s Jewish descent. She was released due to lack of evidence. However, she continued her activities.

She was arrested again in 1943.This time after interrogation she was sent to German camp FKL Ravensbrück. Dire living conditions, her age and hard labour damaged her health and she fell ill. The camp staff announced that sick people were to report as they were going to be moved to a separate barrack. Not suspecting anything, she put her name on the list. According to one account, she was killed by lethal injection of phenol to the heart; according to another one she died in a gas chamber in February 1945.

Bibliography

  • Samsonowska Krystyna, Wyznaniowe gminy żydowskie i ich społeczności w województwie krakowskim (1918-1939), Kraków 2005
  • Kiryk Feliks red., Dzieje miasta Nowego Sącza, Kraków 1993
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Duda T., Eksterminacja ludności żydowskiej w Nowym Sączu w okresie II wojny światowej, „Rocznik Sądecki”, t. 12
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 1253