Woinska Janina

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Story of Rescue - Woinska Janina

When the Second World War broke out, Janina Woińska was studying pharmacy in Vilnius and her older sister Jadwiga was working in a drugstore in Brańsk, Bielsk county. The father of both women was a medic in the village of Milejczyce, 30 kilometers away.

During the Nazi occupation Woińska found a job in Brańsk, in a drugstore located in the tenement of a Jewish family, the Szapiros. Janina Woińska was about the same age as the sons of the owner of this property – the older was Fejwl and the younger Leibko Szapiro. She recalls that the relations between both families were correct. When the ghetto was founded after the Nazis entered the town in June 1941, the drugstore building was located right on the border with the “Aryan side”.

During one of the so-called “actions” or during the final liquidation of the ghetto in November 1942, the 20-year-old Leibko appeared at Woińska’s door, asking her to hide him in the basement. Woińska refused – she was afraid the hiding place could be easily discovered. However, when Leib returned, asking her to help himself, his fiancée Maria Waserówna and his brother – she gave them shelter.

The outbuilding in the yard turned out to be a much safer place than the often visited drugstore. There, behind the wood supplies, the two Szapiro brothers were hiding for about a week. Every day the housekeeper Genia Kaźmierczak would prepare food and bring it to them. Woińska emphasized that in spite of her fear she was not able to refuse helping another person.

One day Janina and Maria, who used to work with her, noticed that someone in the neighboring building was trying to get their attention. It turned out it was their old neighbors, the Jęczmień family – they were also hiding. Woińska would help them as often as she could.

After a week, thanks to the help of the local priest Chwalko, the Szapiros moved to the nearby village of Oleksin and hid on the farm of the Popławski family. From time to time they asked Janina for medicine and food. They spent about a year there. Both survived the war, but Leibko was killed in Białystok after the liberation. His brother emigrated to America together with his family. He remained in contact with Janina Woińska.


  • Anna Koc, Interview with Janina Woińska, 9.08.2010
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu