The Srednicki and Rybicki Family

enlarge map

Story of Rescue - The Srednicki and Rybicki Family

Irena and Stanisław Średnicki, together with Irena’s brother Stanisław Rybicki, lived in the Warsaw suburb of Mokotów, in a tenement at ul. Narbutta 52. They had many Jewish friends who often visited them. Following the outbreak of World War II, that did not change.

Stanisław Rybicki recalls, “Even from before the War, we had many friends who were Poles and were Jewish. To the Nazis, they were just Jews. (…) Due to the curfew, social gatherings and visits lasted well into the night. Those who stayed late spent the night with us”. Despite the implementation of further repressions against the Jews, and the establishment of a ghetto in the capital in 1940, the apartment on ul. Narbutta was always open to Jewish friends.

Kazimierz Rybicki, Irena and Stanisław’s father, and their sister Ewa joined in helping their friends.  

In 1940, twenty four year old writer Kazimierz Brandys came to the apartment at ul. Narbutta 52. Irena and Stanisław had known him for a long time. Brandys did not want to move into the ghetto and asked his friends for shelter.

“He came to us throughMarysia Z., who later became his wife. Marysia was a friend of my sister Irena. Together, they had attended the Werecki Gimnazjum on ul. Foksal”, recalls Stanisław.

As the survivor himself states, “Both of us (with Maria) travelled to Mokotów, to ulica Narbutta where, after the arrest of my father, I’d lived at Irena’s, M.’s school friend, whose husband was Staszek Średnicki, whom we already knew from Kuźni Młodych”.

Brandys’ father had died in Pawiak prison on 20th December 1940, whereas his brother Marian had been a German prisoner-of-war since 1939 (Offizierslager für kriegsgefangene Offiziere).

Over a certain period, others to move into the Średnicki apartment included Brandys’ mother, Eugenia, who had earlier been in the Warsaw ghetto. Unlike her son, Eugenia had a so-called “bad appearance”. “Kazio did not look Semitic, so he acknowledged that he could freely move around the city and that’s would he did. However, his mother, because of her Semitic appearance, could not leave the home”, wrote Stanisław.

While strolling around the city, Brandys managed to hear the various opinions expressed by Warsaw residents on the subject of the Jews. After the War, he recalled expressions of solidarity, but also of indifference, as well as antisemitic comments. In his book Miasto niepokonane (The Invincible City) he wrote, “There was the death penalty for pork fat and for gold, for arms and for false papers, for not registering, for a radio and for Jews. Jokingly they said that they only feared punishments worse than death. These were fines, such as jaywalking from before the War.  A deathly absurdity hung over the city”.

Strong bonds bonds of friendship developed amongst the Średnicki family, Stanisław Rybicki and the Brandys family. They lived together as one family, sharing the living expenses. “We became close friends. For me and perhaps for all of us, those couple of years living together were very interesting for many reasons. I recall interesting discussions on every possible topic, which would often continue on late into the night. (…) There were also night-long games of poker and bridge”, recalls Rybicki.

Other Jews also found shelter in the apartment in Mokotów. Among them were Celina Kwas (a classmate of Stanisław Średnicki) and her mother. Stanisław, who was active in the Home Army, arranged “Aryan papers” for them.

Until alternative hiding places could be found, others also found shelter at Narbutta, including Stefania Grodzieńska and Melania Wasserman. “We were in close contact with Melania Wasserman, who had taken the name Maria Wisłowska, a well-known translator of German, French and English classical works. We found her a secure apartment on ul. Hoża, in which she remained for the entire occupation”. Regarding the Średnicki family, she wrote, “They never refused to shelter anyone who was in need of help. Both of them came to the aid of Jews, not only in the ghetto, but also those in hiding on the (Aryan) side. Apart from some temporary assistance, they constantly hosted Jews for many long months. The role they played is undeniable”.

Irena and Stanisław’s father, Kazimierz Rybicki, also actively helped Jews. In his apartment at Al. Niepodległości 132/136, he sheltered Eda Rozenfeld from Łódż (under the false name of Krystyna Szczepańska). Kazimierz also helped a young Jewish girl hiding at ul. Kazimierzowska. He also took weapons and food to the Warsaw ghetto.

As a result of his involvement with the underground, Kazimierz Rybicki was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1943. This was supposedly due to being denounced by Jan Marek Pawłowski, a Gestapo agent. Kazimierz’s daughter, Ewa, her partner Ludwik Goryński and his mother Maria were also arrested. Even though the Goryński family were Jews, they were arrested for being active in the underground.

Several days later, on 18th November, posters appeared in Warsaw about the impending execution of forty people involved in, among other things, underground activity. Amongst those condemned were members of the Rybicki family. On 24th November 1943, Kazimierz and Ludwik were executed by firing squad on ul. Nabielaka, while Ewa and Maria perished near  Pawiak.

Stanisław Rybicki recalls, “Following the arrest of my family, we had to leave the apartment onul. Narbutta because of the danger. We lived in a rented apartment on ul. Kazimierzowska. Kazio and his mother also left the apartment”. Until the end of the occupation, Kazimierz Brandys was helped by the Średnicki family. His mother, however, did not survive the War. She died in the village of Kończyce near Michałowic, where she was taken following the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.

Straight after leaving the apartment at ul. Narbutta 52, the Średnicki family helped a Jewish lady from Łódż, Ewa Fischmann, known as Stefa. She had lived at Narbutta, together with Eugenia Średnicka, Stanisława’s mother. For a time, Ewa was visited by her husband Mieczysław and her niece Krysia, both of whom had false papers. In the spring of 1944, they were denounced. Mieczysław was shot by the Germans on ul. Narbutta. Stefa was most likely taken to Pawiak Prison or to Al. Szucha where she also would have perished.

After the War, the Średnicki family remained in close contact with Kazimierz Brandys and Melania Wasserman-Wisłowską who, until her death in 1975, lived at Narbutta 52.

Years later, as a well known and highly regarded writer, Kazimierz Brandys wrote, “Jewish survivors knew who was killing them – the Germans. But the survivors also remember words. I consider myself as one of those survivors and I owe my life to people who were both Poles and Jews”. Frequently, in gratitude, personally or within the pages of his books, he referred to the help he and his mother received from the Średnicki and Rybicki families.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Rybicki Stanisław, Narbutta 52 (wspomnienia z czasów okupacji hitlerowskiej), „Kwartalnik Historii Żydów”
  • Paulsson Gunnar S., Utajone miasto. Żydzi po aryjskiej stronie Warszawy (1940-1945), Kraków 2007
    A description of the experiences of Jews hiding in Warsaw; contains excerpts concerning Polish rescuers.
  • Nalewajko-Kulikov Joanna, Strategie przetrwania: Żydzi po aryjskiej stronie Warszawy, Warszawa 2004
    The book is a comprehensive source of information about different aspects of hiding in Warsaw; a chapter is devoted to Polish rescuers, both organized and individual.
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Bartoszewski Władysław, Lewinówna Zofia, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Warszawa 2007
    This publication consists of 3 parts: monographic outline of the issue of aid given to the Jews; collection of German and Polish documents concerning the histories of Jews and the aid given to them; collection of the post-war reports created by Poles and Jews about the aid.
  • Brandys Kazimierz, Miasto niepokonane, Warszawa 2009