The Walulewicz Family

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Story of Rescue - The Walulewicz Family

Michał (born on 27.09.1887) and Zofia Walulewicz with their three children lived in Święciany, 80 km from Vilnius (now the place Śviencionys, Lithuania). Mr. Walulewicz was the Mayoral deputy with a good salary so the family could afford to live in a large house with a garden at 32, 3rd of May Street.

In September ’39 Michal Walulewicz was made redundant. At the same time his youngest daughter who was deaf as a result of childhood scarlet fever had to stop attending a school for the hearing impaired in Vilnius.

In the middle of 1941 the city was seized by the Germans and a series of tragic events occurred.

Their oldest son, Zdzisław, was killed on 9th October, 1941 in suspicious circumstances (the family believes that he was killed by Lithuanian Police). The second son, in fear of his life, escaped from Święciany.

And on 20th May 1942 Michał Walulewicz lost his life. He and forty other representatives of the local intelligentsia were executed in revenge for the killing of four German soldiers.

Zofia Walulewicz, the mother, and her daughter were left on their own. They supported themselves by sewing and selling vodka. It was Irena who distributed the vodka, because as she said laughing (through an interpreter) her disability made her immune to being sent to a forced labour camp by the Germans, she could freely move around the town.

The Jews from Święciany

According to Golda Buszkaniec by the end of September 1941 “ all the Jews from our town and from the villages nearby – women, men, children and old people, all together around 1800 people – were taken to a forest, called << artillery training ground >> 12 km from the town, and they were cruelly murdered and buried in a common grave.”

“Only around 300 Jews who were craftsmen, called by the Germans <> (useful Jews), and their families remained alive and enclosed in a small ghetto, in order work for the Germans. I and my husband (Szymon) were among them. But in the spring of 1943 the order to liquidate the ghetto was issued”.

Escape

Thanks to the help of a Lithuanian policeman, the Buszkaniec couple managed to run away. Szymon decided to join the Resistance in the woods nearby. Golda without hesitation headed straight for a family she new - the Walulewicz’s. Golda’s father had been a qualified roofer before the war and knew the Mayoral deputy as “he did a lot of roofing work ordered by the town hall”.

Zofia and Irena Walulewicz sheltered Golda “even though I didn’t have any money and valuable objects, they decided to shelter and hide me under their roof without hesitation”(…) “They didn’t ask me unnecessary questions and immediately hid me in their attic, the place they thought was the safest.”

Golda Buszkaniec spent half a year there and “during the whole period I never heard a word of complaint about being a burden to them, let alone the death risk they ran if I had been discovered there”.

Daily routine

What was the daily routine like when you were living hiding? “Every day they brought me food upstairs and emptied the waste bucket”. On Sundays when Zofia and Irena were at a church, Golda used to come downstairs and wash herself. On colder days she spent more time downstairs, just to warm herself by a stove. In case of risk, Golda used to hide under a bed. On the bed a blanket was spread and it had a sewn piece of fabric covering the space under the bed. “I still remember those moments when I was laying under the bed and trying to be quiet because there were visitors in the house” said Golda Buszkaniec in the “Daily News” newspaper.

A German officer lived in one of the rooms in the Walulewicz’s flat. His name was Raban von Konig and was 42 years old. However, he did not interfere with the family life and once when he accidentally came across Golda, she did not arouse his suspicion.

Another time when the German Police came to carry out a search in the flat, Golda managed to jump out of a window and hide in a pigsty in the backyard.

Golda also took part in housework and helped to earn a living. Together with Zofia and Irena she sewed and darned clothes and it gave them some money. She moved out in November 1943 after she managed to contact her husband. She later joined him. They both survived the war.


After the war

Golda met with Zofia and Irena only once, at the end of 1944. Afterwards, they lost contact. Golda and Szymon emigrated from Poland to Israel with stopovers in Lublin and Germany.

In May 1945 Mrs. and Miss Walulewicz arrived in Białystok but because of spreading typhus fever there, they quickly moved to Olsztyn. Irena got a job as an engine driver and became an actress in a pantomime theatre as well.

Reunion

Golda Buszkaniec contacted Irena Walulewicz in 1995 again after long-standing efforts to trace her. It was possible thanks to help from the Pesky Związek Głuchych (Polish Association of the Deaf) and Mr. Bohdan Polak, a historian of Święciany.

Irena Walulewicz and her mother (posthumously) were awarded the Medal and title The Righteous among the Nations in 2004 with Golda’s initiative.

Reception in New York

On 27th November, 2007 The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous that has been supporting the Righteous since 1986, organized a meeting in New York between 82 year old Irena Walulewicz and 94 year old Golda who came from Israel. It was their first meeting since 1944.

Irena was welcomed with honours at the Kennedy Airport. She was the star on the charity party held at the luxury Waldorf hotel. A seat at a table that night cost several thousand dollars. The aim was to collect money in aid of the Righteous.

After the party articles describing her story were published in the Olsztyn issue of Gazeta Wyborcza, New York “Daily News”, “The Sun” and in many other worldwide newspapers.

Irena went back to Święciany only once after the war in September 2007 together with a film crew sent by the Foundation. Irena was surprised to find local people were so hostile towards her. She decided never to go there again.

Golda Buszkaniec lives in Tel Aviv. She has two children, seven grand children and four great-grand children. All of them emphasized in a letter sent to Irena that the family wouldn’t have existed if not for her and her mother’s bravery.

More

Bibliography

  • Brzozowski Stanisław, Sprawiedliwa, „Gazeta Olsztyńska”, nr 159
    Information on granting the title of Righteous Irena Walkiewicz from Olsztyn.
  • Brzozowski Stanisław, Dziękuję za uratowanie babci Dawida, „Gazeta Olsztyńska”
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 2655
  • Grzybek Marcin, Interview with Irena Walulewicz, 27.02.2009