Zielińska-Berengut Irena

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Story of Rescue - Zielińska-Berengut Irena

Before the war, Irena Zielińska lived in a village called Majdan Wrotkowski, situated close to Lublin (within city limits now). She lived in one house with her parents, Piotr and Karolina Zieliński, but she had a small separate apartment of her own in it. In 1942, being only seventeen, she was already earning a living for herself as a worker.

By the end of 1942, Irena started helping Szmul Berengut and his two sons, Czesław and Władysław. They were friends of her father and lived at a nearby village called Zemborzyce Kościelne. Having been ordered by the German authorities to report to the ghetto in Piaski Luterskie near Lublin, the men hid in a forest called Dąbrowa in the vicinity of Zemborzyce. She helped them by means of bringing food to them.

After some time, she harboured Szmul’s elder son Władysław at her tiny apartment. She could not have taken all of them in, it was simply not possible in view of her living conditions at the time. In July 1943, Władysław’s brother and father were caught during a manhunt organised by the Germans and shot. Irena prepared a hiding place for Władysław in a cubbyhole adjacent to her apartment. It was possible to access the cubbyhole via a secret passage in a closet standing by a wall. There was an additional hiding place underneath the floor of the cubbyhole where Władysław would hide when the situation was the most dangerous. Irena covered Władysław’s upkeep in its entirety, using her modest wage. “... she bought food for me, cooked herself, and did the laundry...”. Władysław Berengut recalled after the war.

Her charge remained in hiding there until July 1944. They married after the war.

Irena’s help was completely selfless. She received no reward; on the contrary: she bore all costs connected with the maintenance of her charge. The Yad Vashem Institute awarded Irena with the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1992.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349/24, 1471
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009