The Szyszkowski family

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Story of Rescue - The Szyszkowski family

Before 1939, Wacław and Irena Szyszkowski lived in Warsaw at ul. Żurawia 24. They were both legal studies graduates. Wacław was a lawyer and his wife studied law-making. During the occupation, they were active in the Polish underground. Wacław became so much involved in affairs of the anti-Nazi underground that he suspended the functioning of his lawyer’s office and devoted most of his time to clandestine operations.

In August 1942, during the great liquidation action in the Warsaw ghetto, Wacław was contacted by a Jewish friend of his, a lawyer under the name of Józef Zysman, and asked to help save Zysman’s small son Piotruś. Piotruś was led out of the ghetto by Józef’s sister-in-law, sister of his wife Teodora. She managed to escape with her daughter and the boy via sewers.

The Szyszkowskis immediately decided to take their friend’s child in. He stayed them for some time but they could not have kept him indefinitely because they had three small children of their own. They tried to find a safe place for him to stay in and succeeded. He was placed in an orphanage ran by nuns, most likely in Międzylesie on the Otwock line. It was necessary to find a new hiding place for him several times but the Szyszkowski always managed to do that. The boy survived the war and was taken away by his mother in 1945. His father, Wacław’s friend, did not live through the war -=– he was killed in 1943.

Apart from Piotruś, the Szyszkowskis were also involved in saving two Jewish girls. They were the daughters of another Warsaw lawyer, Roman Frydman Mirski.

After the war, the Szyszkowskis had no contact with Teodora Zysman for many years due to them having emigrated to the west. They returned to Poland in the 1960s but Teodora had decided to emigrate at that time. It was only in the 1980s that she found the Szyszkowskis and established contact with them.

The Szyszkowskis helped others selflessly. Wacław admitted that the main reasons underlying their help were “friendship, solidarity of colleagues, humanitarianism, and political convictions”. He also emphasised that they suffered no “negative consequences” due to their help – they were not persecuted, blackmailed, denounced or otherwise adversely affected.

“They risked their own lives and the lives of their children”, Teodora Zysman wrote with gratitude. The Yad Vashem Institute awarded Wacław and Irena Szyszkowski the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1988.

Bibliography

  • Szyszkowski Wacław, Palestra warszawska
  • Bartoszewski Władysław, Lewinówna Zofia, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Warszawa 2007
    This publication consists of 3 parts: monographic outline of the issue of aid given to the Jews; collection of German and Polish documents concerning the histories of Jews and the aid given to them; collection of the post-war reports created by Poles and Jews about the aid.
  • Prekerowa Teresa, Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Żydom w Warszawie 1942-1945, Warszawa 1982
    A monograph concerning the Council to Aid Jews, an organization operating during the war in the Government Delegation for Poland and providing help to Jews, especially those hiding on “the Aryan side”.
  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Wacława i Ireny Szyszkowskich, 349/24/908