The Zwonarz Family

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Story of Rescue - The Zwonarz Family

Józef, Franciszka, and their children lived in Lesko, Podkarpacie. The family’s breadwinner was Józef, who worked as a locksmith in his workshop. From December 17th, 1942, until the summer of 1944, the Zwonarzs gave shelter to five Jewish fugitives from the Zasław camp, in a specially-made hideout under the floor of the workshop. The fugitives were the family of doctor Natan Wallach, and they spent nearly two years in this hole in the ground.

The details of the story can be learned from the lecture given by Jafa Wallach, Natan’s wife, taken from her shocking memoirs.

“Sorrow and desperation were our constant companions. They were compounded by the incessant hunger, filth, the stench of the unwashed, tangled bodies, the biting parasites, and the lack of fresh air … Pinek and Milek would often talk of suicide and ask dad to help them [with it].”- wrote Jafa.

Initially, Józef did not reveal the secret of the Jews in hiding to his family, bearing it all on his own shoulders. When it became impossible to continue the rescue by himself, he told his wife everything. Franciszka did not refuse to help, and the sacrifices made by the couple allowed the Wallachs to avoid starvation.

“Józef had to think of the workshop, all sorts of family issues, and then he had four more mouths to feed. He often seemed dazed. He had neither the time nor the strength to solve all these problems, and he had no one to share them with. - Jafa Wallach remembers of her rescuer. - He was bound to us, literally, for life and death. And in those circumstances the constant fight to get enough food was a terrible burden on him.”

The Soviet Army entered Lesko in September and the family the Zwonarzs had protected were free.