The Stefanek Family

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Story of Rescue - The Stefanek Family

In 1938, Stanisława was living in Kraków. One day, a friend of Stanisława’s mother brought her 10-day old daughter, Małka, to the Stefanek house in the Kazimierz district of Kraków. She asked if they would take care of the girl and promised to return within several days. Despite the fact that the girl was seriously ill and handicapped, the family agreed.

Marysia’s mother never returned, and to this day it is not known what happened to her. Małka, whom the family called Marysia, became a member of the Stefanek family. Stanisława, who was then a teenager, treated her as a sister. She took care of her, sewed her clothes, did other chores for her, and even bought her presents with the little money she could save.

It was not a secret to anyone in the building that Marysia was Jewish. One time a German policeman came to their apartment and ordered them to give him the Jewish child they were hiding. When he saw Marysia he changed his mind and said, “with a handicap like this it is not worth even one bullet because she is going die anyway”. He hit her and left.

Also during the war, in addition to taking care of Marysia, Stanisława and her family helped members of Jewish families living in their building, the Berkowitz and Pfeferman families, often by hiding them. Unfortunately, some of them were captured by Germans, and others escaped from Kazimierz to safer places. Mrs. Stefanek also helped some strangers by allowing them to hide in the celler or the attic of her building. In 1943, 15-year old Stanisława was taken into custody by German police and sent to Germany as a forced labourer.

Stanisława survived the war, as did Marysia who remained with her rescuers as a member of their family. She is still living in Kazimierz today. 

From the exhibition Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews, curated by the Auschwitz Jewish Center, the Galicia Jewish Museum, and the Polish/American/Jewish Alliance for Youth Action (PAJA).