The Wasowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Wasowski Family

Ewa and Józef Wąsowscy lived in Ziomaki, a village in węgrowski county and mazowieckie province. They tended to a small farm and had 6 children. Four of them: Helena (called Halina by family members) (Rajmunda Rozbicka), Jerzy, Jan, and Longin still lived with their parents during the Nazi occupation.

In 1942 a gaunt and terrified girl (about 8 years old) knocked on the door of the Wąsowski family’s house. She introduced herself as Janka. She said that her family had died in Węgrów, a town situated 12 kilometers away from Ziomaki. In the summer of 1942, Noemi Grabska had been taken to Węgrów ghetto together with her mother Cypa (born Appelbaum) and two younger brothers Abram and Moniek. It happened after the death of her father Chaim Grabski who died of hunger in Warsaw Ghetto. Before the Second World War the family lived in Praga district in Warsaw where the father had a jewelry store.

The Węgrów ghetto was brutally liquidated on September 22, 1942. All of its inhabitants were forced to walk a long way to Sokołów Podlaski from which they were taken to an extermination camp in Treblinka. Noemi was the only one in her family who managed to run away. She walked on foot, seeking help among strangers. Some people even set their dogs loose on her. In the interview for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Rajmunda Rozbicka recalls: ”When my parents looked at that child, the condition she was in, just because they had their own children, they knew what it meant. That child was frightened. They knew that the Nazis were killing them out there so they instantly knew who she was, though she kept on praying, making the sign of the cross…”

The Wąsowski family fed the girl and decided to give her shelter, even though it put them and their children in mortal danger. Noemi was treated like a member of the family, she was never left alone in the basement, where she had a special hiding place with a bricked in passage way. In the evenings, together with her foster siblings, she read Polish books.

In 1946, thanks to an organization called Coordination, Noemi landed in a Jewish preschool. She later emigrated to Israel where she got married and started a family. She tried to find people who rescued her for a long time. Finally, during her trip to Poland in 1988 she managed to find Jerzy Wąsowski who still lived in Węgrów. Thanks to her efforts the family received the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Till their death the Wąsowski family stayed in contact with Janka/Noemi. They wrote letters. Each year Noemi visited them often together with her husband Josef, who also survived the Second World War in Poland, and their children. Till her last days, Noemi treated the Wąsowski’s as her foster family.

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Olga Cielemęcka, Interview with Rajmunda Rozbicka, 15.07.2010