The Wolanski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Wolanski Family

Before the war, the Wolański family lived in Jaćmierz near Sanok, in the former province of Lvov, where they ran a small one-hectare farm. In the same town also lived Abraham and Chaja (nee Goldreich) Silberman, together with their eight children. The Silbermans were engaged in trade.

The Silbermans were probably brought to the ghetto in Sanok, created in the summer of 1941, to which Jews from the surrounding area were deported. According to the account of Danuta Bąk, Abraham died in Auschwitz, and Zygmunt Silberman fled to Lvov. Probably in the summer of 1942, the four siblings of the Silberman family managed to escape to the so-called Aryan side: either they escaped from the ghetto in Sanok, or from the labour camp in Szebnie. In a letter from 1984, Genia Śmietanko, one of the daughters of Silbermans, reminisces that "we left the ghetto with nothing." In a letter from 1984, Władysław Wolański noted that the Silbermans escaped from the camp in Szebnie.

The Silbermans went to their home village and asked Wolańscy for help. According to Danuta Bąk, the Silbermans came to the conclusion that only Wolańscy could agree to help them.

Stanisława Wolańska hid Aron, Golda, Samuel and Frida Silberman in the barn, in a specially dug bunker with a narrow entrance. The hosts brought food, clothes, cigarettes and books to the bunker. The Silbermans stayed with Wolańscy until the liberation of these areas in 1945. They came out from their hiding place only at night to get some fresh air, or warm up in the house, because as Bąk wrote: "You had to be on guard not only against the enemy, but also against neighbours”.

Danuta was arrested twice during the hiding of Jews, but did not betray their presence. Searches were carried out in the house, but the entrance to the hiding place in the barn was never discovered.

Danuta Bąk helped other Jewish friends escape from the ghetto in Sanok: Mordechaj (Markus) Silberman, Sender Charas, Dr. Lerner and Jarmark. She also led Jakub Wilner’s daughter from the camp in Szebnie, whom she put with good friends. The girl survived the war and was later picked up by her parents, with whom she went to Israel.

Chaja Silberman and four of her children died in the Holocaust: Ajga (1914-1942?), Jakub (1915-1942?), Rachela, Miriam Wilner (née Silberman) (1918-?) and her husband, Gerszon (1904-1943?), a dentist.

After the liberation, Eugenia Śmietanka (Golda) and Franciszka Kuszmir (Frida) moved to Australia and set up families in Melbourne. Aron Silberman went to Israel, and Zygmunt (Samuel) Silberman to the US.

In a letter from 1984, Danuta Bąk stressed: "I accepted the whole family as my brothers and sisters, and they were treated like family." She also mentions that the Silbermans called Stanisława Wolańska "mommy" and Danuta “sister”. In her letter to the Central Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, Danuta Bąk stressed that she was guided by humanitarian motives, and as she wrote in 1984, her family risked their lives "out of pity for those poor unhappy people".

The fact that Wolańscy provided selfless help was confirmed by a letter from 1983 by Genia Śmietanka. She wrote: "They saved us not for payment, but because of humanitarian feelings, and for a long period of time."

In 1985 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award Stanisława Wolańska and Danuta Bąk-Wolańska, as well as Władysław and Eugenia Wolańscy with the titles Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 409