Story of Rescue - Wieczorek Stanislawa
Late in the autumn of 1944, the Wieczork family of Częstochowa took into their home a fifteen year old refugee from Warsaw who introduced himself as Józef Balicki.
Józek - Bronisław
Bronisław Weissberg was born in Lwów. His father, Izrael Weissberg, was the owner of the biggest textile warehouse in the city. His mother, Dora, educated as a teacher of foreign languages (French and German), was a housewife. She had an active social life and took part in philanthropic activities. Bronisław and his younger brother, Marian, had a carer.
In October 1941, the Weissberg family were forced to move to the ghetto. In return for a bribe, Izrael found employment in the Textilia textile plant which made uniforms for the German army. During an akcja in August 1942, Dora was deported to the Bełżec extermination camp. The boys hid amongst the rolls of fabric in Textilia.
Work meant protection against being transported. Izrael arranged for ten year old Marian to be hidden in a village. However, for thirteen year old Bronek, using cunning and a considerable amount of money, he organised employment as a labourer in the factory. For his older son, he also bought false papers under the name of “Józef Balicki”.
On 22nd December 1942, Bronisław Weissberg did not return to the ghetto after work. He remained in the factory and, after everyone had left, he climbed through a window and waited for a pre-arranged meeting with a guide. He reached Warsaw where, thanks to help from an aunt and uncles, he hid on the “Aryan side” until the fall of the Uprising.
In October 1944, in a transport of refugees from Warsaw, he found himself in Częstochowa. He arrived in the camp starving – he weighed around 30 kg, suffering from dysentery.
Prof. Dov Weissberg remember the camp in Częstochowa, “The camp (...) consisted of a row of wooden buildings, each capable of holding a couple of hundred people. Everyone had a place on a wooden pallet and a thin blanket. The pallets were arranged in long rows, on three levels. I was assigned a place on the top level (“the third floor”), deep inside the barracks”.
The Wieczorek Family
Stanisława Wieczorek, the second wife of Józef Wieczorek, was a housewife. They lived with Józef’s children - Janina (22-24), Antoni (18) and Stanisława (16-17). Józef Wieczorek supported his family by working in the glassworks. He supplemented his meagre income through the weaving of cane baskets.
“For breakfast, there was always zalewajka soup with potatoes and, for lunch, there was zalewajka soup with potatoes and a slice of bread. For supper, again it was zalewajka soup. It was great if there was still some bread left over”, says Danuta Włodarczyk, granddaughter of the Wieczorek family, in an interview with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
Janina Wieczorek, known as Jasia, served in the home of the pharmacists, the Placek family. She regularly accompanied Mrs Placek, as well as her mother Mrs Sommerfeld when they visited the Warswaw refugee camp situated in suburban Częstochowa.
In an interview conducted by the Polish Red Cross and the Central Welfare Council, she describes the camp containing Prof. Dov Weissberg (Józef Balicki). “The poverty was crippling”, she says. “Under those conditions, anyone who had that possibility would leave. They would rent an apartment or a room, or go to a friend or relative. Many of the refugees had pre-arranged somewhere to live and so had totally by-passed the camp. Those who had arrived nd remained were among the poorest of the poor (...). Every day, generous residents of Częstochowa would come, bringing food, blankets and clothes.”
Jasia told her parents about the fifteen year old orphan. They suggested that he come to live with them.
A Room Witha Kitchen
The little house at 32B ul.Wysocka comprised a room with a kitchen. Danuta Włodarczyk says that, “There was no heating in the room. Wood was only burned under the metal plate in the kitchen. The door would be left open to let in a little warmth. Water was drawn from a well. The well still exists to this day. (...) Behind the house, grandpa bred rabbits. He also had chicken,”
Józio Balicki settled in with the Wieczorek family. For dinners, Jasia took him to the Pask family. He earned his keep by helping out in the Sommerfeld household.
The Wieczorek family were very religious. Prayers were said before meals, in the morning, upon awakening and before going to sleep. On a certain evening, as Józio Balicki finished saying prayers, Stanisława, said in a quiet voice, “During prayers, one should kneel before the cross or in front of a holy image, rather than in front of a family photograph.”
Prof. Dov Weissberg recalls that “in a flash, it dawned on me that Mrs Wieczorek was warning me. She had seen me, several times, kneeling and praying in front of a family photograph or painting. But not wanting to draw others’ attention to my mistake, she waited until we were home alone and, with great delicacy, drew my gaffe to my attention. (...)
No one uttered the word Jew and she never mentioned her suspicions to anyone. (...) For sure, she had known for a long time that I was a Jew and she protected me from her own family”.
When he moved in with the Wieczorek family, Józef introduced himself as the son of a police officer from Zborów – he chose a more “Polish” profession rather than that of a merchant, which was in fact his father’s occupation, Antek Wieczorek, an expert and an amateur policeman, asked one day about his father’s rank. The answer of “Captain” surprised him.
He began to make enquiries. How was this possible? How could this youngster from Zborów have a father with the rank of captain? Noticing Józef’s hesitation, Stanisława Wieczorek broke into the conversation. “Antek, leave Józef in peace. After so many years, how can he remember his father’s rank?” Her intervention saved Józef from further investigation.
Protection from her Own Family
In his memoirs, Professor Dov Weissberg gave some thought to what motivated Stanisława Wieczorek, “The same as other members of her family, (...)she didn’t like Jews and accused them of being the cause of the majority of troubles which Poland had ever experienced (...) However, at the same time, She was hiding a Jewish boy in her home.
“She protected me not only from others, from the Nazis, from enemies from the outside world, but also from her own family. She was able to distinguish between her overall dislike of the Jews on the one hand and, on the other, sending a Jewish boy whom she knew into the street in winter, perhaps into the hands of the Nazis.
Perhaps she remembered certain Jews whom she knew and who weren’t so bad as her overall opinion of Jews. Or maybe it was a reaction to the hostility shown by her adopted children”.
After the War
Józek remained with the Wieczorek family until liberation in January 1945. He spent the next two years at the orphanage in Zatrzebie. From there, he moved to Wałbrzych, to his Aunt Stela, his mother’s sister. In 1950, he emigrated to Israel.
He graduated in medicine and became a surgeon. He is a professor at Tel Aviv University. He managed the general and chest surgery department at the Shmuel Harofe Hospital and the Wolfson Hospital.
He has three daughters and a son.
At the end of the 1980’s, he visited Poland. He tried to locate his Częstochowa carers, but without success.
“Unfortunately, over the 44 years since the end of the War, many street names in Poland had changed (...). I met an older taxi driver who had been in Częstochowa his whole life. He knew all the streets very well, but even he couldn’t remember the street and couldn’t find it. (...) Wieczorek is an unusually common surname in Częstochowa. Even the first names of “my” Wieczorek’s were very common”.
It was only in 2008, when he began his efforts in having the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” conferred upon Stanisława Wieczorek, that with the aid of the Yad Vashem Institute he was able to locate her descendants.
Stanisława never told her family about the true origins of the boy from Warsaw. After the War, she helped raise the children of her youngest stepchild, Stasia.
Her granddaughter remembers her as a wonderful storyteller, “With my sister, I would listen in awe.”. She only discovered her grandmother’s secret and met Dov Bronisław Weissberg (Józef Balicki) a dozen or so years after her death.
Stanisława Wieczorek died of cancer in 1958 in the small house on ul. Wysocka.
Other Stories of Rescue in the Area
- The Mrozek Family
- The Jastrzebski Family
- Habiniak Maria
- The Sikora Family
- The Nędza Family
- The Gniatkowski Family
- Abramowicz Natalia
- Walentyna Zak (Ala Sztajnert)
- Kalek Weronika
- The Blonski and Skop Families
- The Koźmiński Family
- The Ferens Family
- The Mikołajczyk Family
- The Nowak Family
- The Pietrzak Family
- The Szlama Family
- The Urbańczyk family