The Szczawinski Family
Story of Rescue - The Szczawinski Family
Before the Second World War, 60 percent of the population of Ostroh, a town by the Russian border on the Horyn River, was comprised of Jews. When the Nazioccupation began, a ghetto for the Jews was set up. In 1942, the liquidation of the ghetto begun. The whole of Ostroh were able to hear the sound of executions carried out on a meadow by the forest. At that time, the Szczawiński family was visited by some acquaintances: Samuel Klepacz, a carpenter who had laid the floor and built a porch at Szczawińskis’ house, together with his fiancée Sima Rozliwkier. They stayed until the liberation in 1944.
The only person to know about the Jews’ presence was Eugenia Szczawińska and her three children: Antonina, Edward, and Adam Tadeusz. The remaining four siblings had no idea of what was hidden in the unfinished part of the house that served as a barn. A Russian soldier, temporarily staying at the house, didn’t know either, and even Mr. Antoni Szczawiński didn’t know.
“Daddy was a manager at a workshop where Germans would come and order stuff. So, if they had a drink together, he might have accidentally said something and we would have had a search of the house.”
The shelter under the barn floor was dug by Samuel and Antonina’s brothers, while she was on the watch. Later, she brought food, water, towels and soap, washed the bed linen and clothes, and removed the waste. Samuel and Sima could only leave the hideout for a short amount of time every couple of nights. They spent nearly two years in hiding and their health suffered a lot. They both had rheumatism, and Sima nearly lost her sight.
For two months they were accompanied in the shelter by Lina Nusinow. He was a twelve-year-old boy who had previously been hiding in a ravine with his parents. Exhausted physically and mentally, he died of pneumonia and was buried in the Szczawińskis’ orchard.
After the war Sima and Samuel married and left for Israel shortly after. Antonina, aside from taking care of the house and children, also repaired stockings, and worked as a culture and education instructor, a boarding house tutor, and a mangle operator. She lives with her husband in Warsaw.
Other Stories of Rescue in the Area
- Brzostek Agnieszka, Interview with Antonina Tomaszewska, 1.01.2009
- Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009