The Urbańczyk family

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Story of Rescue - The Urbańczyk family

Wiktoria and Marian Urbańczyk lived in Dąbrowa Górnicza before the war. They were members of the local intelligentsia and maintained relations with the local Jewish community, mostly with assimilated families. In 1939, Marian Urbańczyk was arrested by the Germans for his part during the defensive war against Germany. He was released some time later, after several bribes had been paid. In 1940, the Urbańczyk family moved to Częstochowa.

On 9 April, an order was issued (dated 7 April) that a Jewish district was to be created in the city. The ghetto in Częstochowa was completely closed-off on 23 April 1941. Among other people, Rut and Szymon Asz together with their daughter Elżbieta – close relatives of Nachum Asz, the head of the local Jewish community in Częstochowa until 1936 – moved to the Jewish district.

In the autumn of 1942, the Asz family decided to run away from the ghetto. Elżbieta was two years old then. She was most likely smuggled out in a garbage bag. Her father died during the escape attempt.

Rut and Elżbieta were sent to a Polish doctor, Tadeusz Ferens, who had been helping Jews settle on the “Aryan side”. Rut received fake documents issued for the name of Józefa Zielińska from him. This enabled her to leave for Austria as a Pole to work there. The child, passing for a Polish child, was placed in an orphanage ran by Ursuline nuns at ul. Jasnogórska in Częstochowa.

Elżbieta was adopted soon afterwards by the Urbańczyk family. They did not realise that the girl was Jewish at first. They simply responded to an appeal for adopting orphans from the Zamość region and took the child in. They only discovered who the girl was when the showing roots of her blonde hair turned out to be raven-black. Andrzej, the son of the Urbańczyks, recalled: “Before making their final decision, my parents decided to go to the orphanage and make sure that their suspicions were justified and, unfortunately, the Mother Superior confirmed that Elżunia was most likely a Jewish child who was brought to the orphanage by a Polish doctor who would not go into details and only said that he had dyed her hair blonde for safety”.

The Urbańczyks decided that the child would stay with them. They introduced her to their friends and members of their family as a Polish orphan from the Zamość region. They did not change their decision even when, in time, it became necessary for them to pay blackmailers not to report them to the Gestapo. Andrzej Urbańczyk treated Elżbieta like she were his sister and helped his parents look after her. The girl stayed with them until the end of the war.

Rut Asz also survived the occupation but failed to find her daughter right after the war. She only succeeded in finding her in 1946, with the help of doctor Ferens. The future of the child was discussed. The Urbańczyk family had grown attached to her and were reluctant to part ways with Elżbieta. At Rut’s request, Elżbieta was baptised and Wiktoria Urbańczyk became her godmother. In time, Rut took over the care of Elżbieta. She took her to Palestine and the Urbańczyk family was deeply moved by this.

Close to the beginning of the 1950s, Rut and Elżbieta returned to Poland together with Rut’s second husband – Ritterman. They stayed in Poland for several years and then left to Venezuela. They sporadically sent letters to the Urbańczyks. Some time later, their communication ceased. After Wiktoria and Marian Urbańczyk died, Elżbieta (de Mundlak, later on: Zborowski) renewed her contact with Andrzej. They met in Poland in 1995.

Bibliography

  • Urbańczyk Andrzej, A Bondem nie zostałem, Brzezia Łąka k. Wrocławia 2014
  • Nałkowska Zofia, Charaktery dawne i ostatnie, Warszawa 1948
  • 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 Mariana i Wiktorii Urbańczyków, 349/24/563
  • Klara Jackl, The interview with Andrzej Urbańczyk, 16.01.2015