Wladyslawa Marynowska

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Story of Rescue - Wladyslawa Marynowska

A native Varsovian, Władysława Marynowska has been professionally engaged in social welfare all her life. In 1931, at only 24 years old, she began to work at the municipal Citizens’ Social Aid Committee. In 1936, she was transferred to work at the Father Boduen Home, a care institution for abandoned children and a branch of Warsaw’s Department of Welfare and Health.

Marynowska served as an institutional guardian at the Father Boduen Home, and was responsible for searching for families of abandoned children, conducting social inquiries, and arranging for children’s return to their homes. She also supported mothers who were in dire financial and health situations; her task was to encourage mothers to keep their children. Marynowska was also responsible for qualifying foster and adoptive families.

About 600 children, mainly hungry and ill, reached the Father Boduen Home annually. This number increased drastically in 1939; the registry book lists over 1,200 positions. Not all children, however, remained in the institution. Within a few days, or even hours, many of them were transferred to other places, hospitals, to their own families, or to foster homes.

During the war, children of Jewish origin had also found shelter in Father Boduen Home. With the knowledge and full acceptance of the Home’s director, Dr. Maria Prokopowicz-Wierzbowska, Władysława Marynowska began to organize help for them. Every month, about eight children from the Warsaw ghetto had reached the Home. They were taken out by Marynowska’s friends, who were employees of the Department of Welfare and Health – Irena Schulz (close associate of Irena Sendler) and the nurse Helena Szeszko. These women possessed permits to enter the ghetto. 

Marynowska’s contact with Irena Schulz had resulted in providing help for children from the ghetto. Schultz had asked for help in placing children – whom she had let out of the ghetto – in safe locations. Information about a planned transfer of a child was usually communicated by phone, in a code that included a description of a child’s appearance and time of his or her delivery. Irena Schultz was very concerned for the fate of the first child accepted into the institution. The Home was under strict Gestapo control. Irena Sendler, however, calmed her down saying: “You can remain calm about the child. Władka Marynowska is there.” Irena Sendler very much appreciated the work of Irena Schultz’s co-worker, Helena Szeszko (nickname “Sonia”). She referred to her as an indispensible person thanks to her underground contacts and great initiative.

Significantly more Jewish children, however, had reached Father Boduen Home. Some of them were brought there by their parents before the sealing of the ghetto. Many Polish caretakers, fearing the death penalty for helping Jews, had delivered there those children, who had been previously entrusted to them by the children’s parents. Other children were tossed in when faced with sudden danger. Most Jewish children were not officially registered. Many of the newly incoming children had received names after children who had died. Children’s information and objects or notes found on them were diligently recorded so that they would keep their true identity, and their families could easily find them. It is hard to precisely establish, however, the number of children who had been accepted into Father Boduen Home.

A Jewish child’s appearance decided whether or not the child could remain in the institution. If the child’s appearance was not Semitic, he or she could be kept there. For children who had the so called “bad look,” another shelter had to be quickly found. Marynowska had tried to place those children with foster families, which was not easy – the future caretakers had to be “steady” so that they could be honestly told about a child’s background, and be conscious of the fact that a child’s real family can try to claim it after the war. Often, the Home’s employees used to take a child for safekeeping until an appropriate shelter was found for the child. Marynowska often brought children to her own apartment. She risked her own life, the life of the rescued child, and that of her small son, as well.        

All of the Home’s employees, including its director – Prokopowicz-Wierzbowska, were involved in underground activities. Many of them were aware of Marynowska’s activities, but no one objected to it nor was disloyal to her. Despite the dangerous raids of the Gestapo, a “slip” never took place. Dangerous situations were created mainly by mothers staying at the institution – homeless, sick, without means of livelihood. Sometimes, a woman figured out a child’s origin and blackmailed the staff, threatening to denounce them to the Gestapo.  

With the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, the children were taken to Milanówek and Kowaniec (near Nowy Targ). Marynowska stayed in Warsaw, and immediately began to organize a 45-bed hospital in one of the administrative buildings in the Koło district. Following the expulsion of Koło’s population, she was able to avoid being placed in a camp in Pruszków. Together with her own child and her mother, she moved to Bornerów, where she arranged for a sanitary point. With the onset of a second resettlement action, she ended up in the village of Krzyżanów, where she created a medical help point yet again.

In the first postwar years, she had lived in Łódź, where she worked in the textile industry, while simultaneously serving a number social functions. After five years, she returned to Warsaw, where she had worked at the Ministry of Civil Engineering for almost 20 years. She also served as a social guardian by the Juvenile Court, and as a social inspector for the court’s Department of Care. Already retired, she continued her strong engagement in social life, mainly in assistance actions for difficult youth and elderly people. She had received many awards and medals, including a Warsaw Uprising Cross and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. She received the title “Righteous among the Nations” in 1992.

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