The Szczeciński Family

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Story of Rescue - The Szczeciński Family

Maria Szczecińska’s hometown was Brest-on-the-Bug. After her husband’s death in 1930, she took up a job at the railway station in Staszów, situated in Kielce province. She was a single mother raising five children: her son Jerzy and 4 daughters: Lilka, Irena, Alina and, the youngest of all, 10-year-old Ida.

She lived in seclusion. In the first months of the occupation, she came into contact with the Jews who tried to get a job at the railway station to eschew the deportation to the forced labor camps in Radom and Skarżysko. Before World War II, Staszów was inhabited by around 6000 Jews.

In 1942, when the ghetto was being liquidated, she was so motivated by her sympathy for the Jews that she decided to provide shelter for 15 Jewish fugitives. These were: Bina Pasmantier and her husband Chaim, Daniel Segał, Rachmil and Roman Segał, Andzia Piekarska, Tola Goldberg, Hersz Goldberg and their teenage sons Froim and Benek, Adela and Natan Band, Szmul and Nachman Winer, and Róża Goldfus. To secure enough food for the fugitives without raising any suspicions, Maria began to run a canteen at the railway station.

For 22 months, the Jews stayed in a shelter dug out under the floor of her house on Kolejowa Street. They could leave the hiding place only at nights, when they would spend their time in living rooms. Some of them slept there. They used to spend whole days in their small shelter: one of the fugitives, Bina Pasmantier, even gave birth to a child that was soon after the delivery given to a Polish family. However, it was not long before the child died. Some of the Rescued decided to go to the Polish families under the cover of night, where they left their belongings and money for safekeeping.

The fact that Maria Szczecińska maintained almost no social relations with other people helped her and the Jews to keep a low profile. Her house stood in seclusion and was sheltered by a garden. Furthermore, her dangerous-looking dog provided additional protection and warned against newcomers. In spite of precautions and carefulness, however, the military policemen had searched her house twice, according to Maria’s account given after the war. Fortunately, to no avail.

When the nosy neighbors began to threaten to expose the fugitives to the police, the Jews, under Szczecińska’s protection, moved to her acquaintances for a certain period of time. They came back as soon as the danger passed. 

Following the liberation, the Jews moved to Łódź, where they were visited by Ida, Maria’s daughter. They corresponded with Maria even after their departure from Poland to Israel, the USA and Canada.

In 1981, Maria Szczecińska and her son Jerzy were awarded the “Righteous Among the Nations” medals.

Maria’s daughter Ida, upon finishing her account, asked: “Please tell everybody how brave a woman my mother was.”

Bibliography

  • Olga Cielemięcka, Interview with Ida Szczecińska-Żmuda, 20.09.2010
  • Staszów – 08.11.2007 - Tablica Pamięci o Sprawiedliwych
  • Staszów Jews. The Lost History
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 301, 2790
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 301, 5715