Tolak Family

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Story of Rescue - Tolak Family

Maria Sankowska was raised by Józef Tolak’s grandmother. They lived in Raszyn, near Warsaw, where Maria attended the primary school and began her studies at the junior high school which were interrupted by the outbreak of war. With the help of her grandmother’s friend, maria obtained work at a grocery store for Germans in Warsaw. There, she also met Nina Fogiel, a few years younger than her. Nina was hiding behind the name ” Danuta Gierczak”. In 1943,  after the shop had been shut, r., już po zamknięciu sklepu, Maria found Danuta in tears. She told her that she had nowhere to go.

Maria decided to take her friend home and they returned together to Raszyn. Nina lived with Maria’s aunt, Katarzyna Tolak. She became a member of the family. No one every asked her about her origins. Maria and Nina went to church together. The girls continued to work with people who had signed the volkslist, travelling everyday from Raszyn during the summer and, in the winter, renting a room in Warsaw usually from people who they had met in the shop. Only once was Danuta accused of being Jewish. The owner of the apartment in which the girls had rented room told Maria, „Your friend is a Jew””.

When the Warsaw uprising broke out, Maria’s uncle came to bring the girls safely back to Raszyn. A German soldier stopped them at a road checkpoint. Upon seeing the driver hesitate, he fired a shot, wounding Nina in the leg. Maria tried to protect Nina from suspicion Maria by registering her as part of the population of Raszyn. Followingthe fall of the Warsaw uprising, Maria and her uncle, a member of the AK, as well as Nina, were arrested.

Maria managed to protect her sick uncle. She and Nina found themselves in a transit camp in Pruszkow and then in a forced labour camp constructing a narrow-gauge railway. Fortunately, no one guessed Nina‘s origins.

Both of them survived the War. Following liberation, Nina found her mother who had also survived in hiding. However, Nina’s brother died as the result of being denounced by neighbours.

”I never considered that I did anything extraordinary. Good Lord, a little girl came into me care and I looked after her as best as I could”, said Maria Sankowska in an interview with the Museumof the History of Polish Jews.

Nina Gray (Fogiel), together with her mother, left for canada after the War. She remains in close contact with Maria Sankowska and her family.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area


  • Czyżewska Małgorzata, Interview with Maria Sankowska, 16.07.2010
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu