The Walulewicz Family

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Story of Rescue - The Walulewicz Family

 Before the Second World War Michał and Zofia Walulewicz together with their three children lived in Święciany, 80 km from Vilnius (currently Švenčionys, Lithuania). Michał Walulewicz was deputy mayor.

The Nazis entered in the middle of 1941. One of the Walulewicz sons, Zdzisław, was killed in circumstances that remain unknown (the family believes he was murdered by the Lithuanian police). The younger son, Władysław, escaped from Święciany. Michał Walulewicz, together with forty other representatives of the Polish intelligentsia, was killed by the Germans in May 1942 during the retaliatory action following the murder of four German soldiers.

Zofia and her daughter were left alone. They earned their living sewing and selling moonshine. The alcohol was distributed by Irena, deaf-mute since the scarlet fever she had suffered from in her childhood.

According to the account of Golda Buszkaniec, in the end of September 1941: “All Jews from our city and from the nearby towns, women, men, children and old people, amounting to about 8,000 – were transported to a forest, called the »Training ground«, located around 12 km away from the town. They were cruelly murdered there, and later buried in a common grave”.

The Germans imprisoned in a small ghetto in Święciany about 300 Jewish artisans together with their families. They were called the “useful Jews” and were supposed to work for the Third Reich. Golda and her husband Szymon were among them. When the liquidation of the ghetto started in the spring of 1943, the Buszkaniecs managed to escape.

Szymon joined the partisans. Golda went to the Walulewicz family, asking them for help. Her father, who was a metalsmith, had known the deputy mayor before the Second World War, “when he had carried out roofing works commissioned by the town”.

Zofia and Irena gave Golda shelter without hesitation. They hid her in a room in the attic.

“Everyday they brought me food upstairs, and later they took the plate and emptied the bucket which I used to relieve myself”, Golda describes the reality of the hiding. On colder days she spent more time downstairs, warming herself up by the stove. At dangerous moments she hid under the bed – its bottom part was invisible thanks to some additional material sewed to it.

Golda sewed and darned together with Zofia and Irena. She did not pay for her shelter. She left the women in November 1943 and joined her husband’s troop.

They both survived the war and left to Israel. Zofia and Irena Walulewicz settled in Olsztyn. Irena worked as a typist, for many years she had also been working as actress of the famous Olsztyn pantomime.

In 1995, after many years of efforts, Golda Buszkaniec found Irena Walulewicz thanks to the mediation of the Polish Association of the Deaf. On November 27th, 2007 the American Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which supports financially the Righteous throughout the world, organized in New York the first postwar meeting of the 82-year-old Irena and the 94-year-old Golda, who came from Israel.

At the JFK Airport Irena was received with all due ceremony. She was also the star of a great charity reception at the exclusive Waldorf Hotel. A seat at one of the numerous tables cost a few thousand dollars. The goal of this event was to help the Righteous.

The children and grandchildren of Gołda, scattered around the world, wrote to Irena Walulewicz and told her that if it were not for her and her mother’s heroism, their family would not exist.

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Bibliography

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