The Szczygiel Family

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Story of Rescue - The Szczygiel Family

Bolesław and Irena Szczygieł, together with their daughter Joanna, her younger sister as well as Irena’s mother, Anna Majer, lived in Lviv. Bolesław worked as a welder in a railway factory, while Irena kept house.  Their neighbors included the Jewish family of the Gamzers – Barbara and Izaak and their 8-year-old daughter Aurelia (called Lusia).The Gamzers ran a confectionery. Both families were friends with each other.

In 1941, the German forces began to occupy Lviv and set up a ghetto in the city. In this situation, Joanna’s parents decided to hide Lusia in their own apartment. Joanna helped the girl to escape from the ghetto and looked after her. Lusia spent 8 months in the Szczygieł family.

On the other hand, Barbara and Izaak Gamzer were helped by their former employee from the confectionery, Franciszek Ojak. He led them out of the ghetto and hid in his apartment. His wife Tekla also took care of the new residents.From time to time, the Szczygiełs visited their former neighbors and provided them with food and information about their daughter.

However, the Gamzers could not stand the separation from their child. After about 8 months, they asked the Ojak family to accept also their daughter under their roof.An additional argument for the transfer was the fact that the hiding place in the Szczygiełs’ house was no longer safe – one of the neighbors noticed the girl, so the danger of denunciation became very probable.

By the time the Red Army marched into Lviv in July 1944, the Gamzer family had reunited at the Ojaks’ family. The Szczygiełs kept contact with the Jews and provided them with food a few times a week, on a regular basis.

Still, dangerous situations did occur. Mrs. Joanna Załucka remembers especially one incident:a certain run-away from the convoy hid in the vicinity of the house. The Germans began to search the nearby tenement houses.“The Ojaks almost fainted from fear. They hid the Gamzers in the bathroom. There was a large washtub on the floor, and the other hanging from the ceiling, so the Jews hid in this washtub near the wall. This was their hiding place. Of course, had the Germans entered the bathroom, they would have surely discovered the Jews. But they did not enter it, they did not need to. I do not know whether they found this poor fellow or not, but the inspection was to no avail.”

Life in hiding required observation of rigorous safety precautions.“In the Ojaks family, one of these precautions was to use only one plate and one spoon. When they ate, they did it in turns from one and the same plate. If there had been more plates and utensils, this might have indicated that there were more people living in the house, am I right?”

When the Russians took over the city, Joanna and her younger sister were arrested by the Soviet authorities for their underground activity in the Home Army. They spent a few months behind the bars of a Lviv prison. Next, Joanna was deported deep into the territory of the USSR, where she lived about a year. Joanna got back to Lviv and then moved with her parents to Gliwice. Later, she departed for Wrocław, where she lives to this date.

Soon after the Red Army seized control over Lviv, the Gamzers and Lusia left Poland. They departed for Germany and then moved to the USA. Lusia changed her name into Ruth and married Jan Gruener – one of the survivals from the ghetto in Cracow. They have 2 sons. In 2005, Ruth and her family visited Joanna Załucka. Their meeting took place after 60 years of separation. To this day, they phone and write letters to each other.

Bibliography

  • Mojkowski Karol, Interview with Joanna Załucka, 20.06.2009