The Stelmachowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Stelmachowski Family

In 1941 Ewa Schutz, together with her 11-year-old son named Janek and her mother, had to move to the Lviv ghetto. She worked there in a Jewish hospital. In spite of her limited income, but in the face of more and more brutal repressions, she succeeded in obtaining fake documents. “In this way »Jan Sarnecki« and »Ewa Sarnecka« were born” – as she would later write in her memoirs.

She continued: “Every day it was getting worse and worse, trucks full of people started to leave the ghetto with their passengers later murdered. I began to take my son with me to the hospital so that we would not be separated.” One day, when the Nazi soldiers burst into the hospital and started arresting patients and children, one of them also caught Janek and threw him onto the truck. However, his mother, a descendent from Austria with a perfect command of the German language, luckily got her child back. She later recollected that she had screamed at Germans, calling them “Schweinehunde”, until they gave her son back. However, when she and her son returned home in the evening, Ewa’s mother was nowhere to be found.

On this day Ewa Schutz decided that it was time to flee the city. It was probably in the spring of 1942, at the time when the Nazi sent the first transportation of about 15 000 Jews from Lviv to the extermination camp in Bełżec, and exterminated a few thousand of them on site.

Her friend’s acquaintance accompanied Ewa and her son to the station in return for her last jewels, the pearls. Schutz bought a ticket to Warsaw. When in Warsaw, Ewa changed her job and place of residence many a time, trying desperately to survive on the Aryan side of the city. Jan moved from one monastery boarding house to another, but he still ended up being recognized. Their miserable lot suddenly changed when sister Laurenta from the Sisters of the Resurrection Convent in Żoliborz gave Ewa an address of Mrs. Stelmachowska and her daughters, who lived at 20 Gomółki Street. This was probably at the end of 1942 or at the beginning of 1943.

Irena Stelmachowska was active in the underground movement, while her husband was in Great Britain where he worked in the Polish Government in Exile in London. She lived with her two adolescent daughters – Witolda and Aleksandra. Ewa Schutz wrote in her memoirs: “I found shelter and new friends in the family of Mrs. Stelmachowska and her two daughters. I owe my life and the life of my son to her.”

The women put Ewa and her son in a little room on the ground floor. New tenants could use the apartment like all the other householders. From the very beginning women were aware of the fact that they were hiding Jews. Thanks to her connections, Mrs. Stelmachowska found a place for the boy in the school for children of the uniformed services employees, where he was relatively safe. At last, Ewa could take a breath and calm down. Her job was to sew shoes. On Good Friday of 1944 the women experienced and survived the Gestapo inspection.

During the Warsaw Uprising Jan delivered messages, while Schutz and the Stelmachowskis took care of the wounded. When the Uprising ended, Ewa and Jan were transported to the camp in Pruszków. There, they were separated from the Stelmachowskis – the Schutzs were sent to the labor camp in Austria. They stayed in the West until the time of liberation and never returned Poland.

After World War II, Ewa found her husband, dr Maksymilian Schutz, who was a radiographer and a major, in the English hospital. In 1946 the Shutz family settled in London.

In 1947 Schutz sent them a letter, in which he thanked them for helping his wife and son: “Ewa told me a lot about you, Madame: that you shared everything you had with her, that you cared for her and my son and for their good, although it was difficult to get anything at that time. I could not even hope for my family to survive this dreadful occupation or that I would ever see them again alive. But the miracle happened, and I know that it was mainly thanks to your heroism and your good heart, Madame.”

Then the contact was lost until 1966, when Witolda visited Ewa in London. Since that time they corresponded with each other without a break until the death of the Rescued, who lived 99 years.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Ignacy Strączek, 27.11.2009