The Zlotkowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Zlotkowski Family

They came just like that: four adults and three children. Practically strangers. They asked for shelter for a few days and then stayed for two years in the little attic over the pigsty.  

Stanisław and Julia Złotkowski were seredniaks (mid-income peasants). They owned  eight hectares of land, two horses, a few cows and pigs but it was enough for Stanisław to visit the nearby Ciechanowiec from time to time and trade some goods. There, he met Rubin Chazan, a grain vendor.

They did not get very close but maintained normal business relations.  However, Chazan had to know where Stanisław lived. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to find the way to the Złotkowskis’ house in November 1942, when the Nazis started the liquidation of Ciechanów ghetto.  

Henryk Złotkowski doesn’t remember the exact time when the Jewish fugitives came to his parents’ house in Złotki-Przeczki (now Mazowieckie province, Ostrów county) or how they did it: “They just came. If they hadn’t, the Nazis would have shot them down” – he simply recalls. 

He didn’t try to understand his parents’ motives why they decided to give shelter to the Chazans as well as to their relatives. However, he had to be aware that his family was doing something dangerous. His parents, afraid of getting denounced, did everything in secret from their neighbors. As a result, little Henryk could not even mention that there were 7 people hiding in his house.  

Róża and Rubin Chazan together with their 3 children: Lejb, Szaja and Chawa, Roża’s brother and sister: Ida and Wolf Ptaszek were hiding in heaps of straw at the attic over the pigsty. Lejb Chazan was Henryk’s age but the boys hardly ever saw each other.

The whole time the Jews did not leave the sty’s attic. On occasion they would come down to milk the cows. The Złotkowskis provided the rest of the food. It wasn’t much. “But they survived, and that was the most important: for them to survive” says Henryk Złotkowski.

When the Nazi occupation was over, the Jews returned for a while to Ciechanowiec. The Chazans emigrated to the US through Germany in 1947. A year later, Wolf Ptaszek moved to Israel. Only Ida Ptaszek stayed in Poland. She married Sznajder Zejdko and settled down in Białystok.

A few years later, Henryk Złotkowski came to Białystok after having finished elementary school. He stayed with Ida and her husband. They provided him with everything: food, clothes, accommodation. According to Barbara Złotkowska, Henryk’s wife, Ida Ptaszek was like a mother to him. 

In 1962 Henryk accompanied Ida and Sznajder to the railway station when they decided to move to the United States. Ida wanted Henryk to visit them but due to some visa problems he did not manage to do it.  

Barbara and Henryk came to the US only in 1995. They stayed there for 5 years. Barbara was taking care of Lejb Chazan’s children. They loved her so much that they invited her one more time. She stayed another 5 years but had to go back to Poland because of Henryk’s poor health condition. Since then she has been in touch with Lejb’s family via phone and mail.

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Chojnacka Monika, Interview with Henryk Paweł Złotkowski, 1.03.2009