Rosciszewska Janina

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The story of the Rościszewski family

During World War II, Lech Maria Rościszewski and Janina née Śmieciuchowska with their children, Lech Michał and Janina, helped Jews in their own house in Dolina Będkowska (Małopolska Province). Paweł Wagner was hid in the Rościszewskis’ home.


Before the war broke out, Rościszewska’s family had moved from Kraków to Dolina Będkowska. In 1940, doctor Bierzyński, the family’s physician and an assimilated Jew, asked them for shelter. He came with several carts, bringing his family and possessions. Their hosts placed them in the guest-rooms for holidaymakers, and since Janina’s father was a Christian-democratic activist, there were also Poles hiding at the house.

When the ghetto was closed and the number of the Jews they caught didn’t square up for the Germans, they began sniffing around, trying to find them out. They conducted manhunts.

The first one ended in five new tenants being taken from the house. They never made it to the ghetto nor to a camp. All trace of them was lost. One of the five was the mother of the several-year-old Paweł Wagner.

Jewish child in hiding

The family was prepared for later searches, and the neighbours would let them know that Germans were coming in advance: “We never knew if they’d be looking for partisans or Jews. Everybody who felt in danger ran off into the woods”, said Janina. Her brother Lech Michał was a member of Armia Krajowa (the Home Army).

Despite many other raids in search, the remaining fugitives survived the war. In 1946, against the will of both the Rościszewskis and Paweł himself, the boy was taken, at his father’s request, to Israel, and they lost contact. Wagner found his rescuers in 1989 and visited them.

Mum, who could barely get out of bed, said she wanted to greet Paweł on her feet, right by the door. He looked at us and fell to his knees before her. We all cried our eyes out, no one was ashamed of the tears. His family greeted me like a long-lost aunt, a loved and close one, very cordially. When I was at his house, I felt as if it were my brother’s family.

15 January 1990, the Institute Yad Vashem in Jerusalem honoured Lech Maria and Janina Rościszewski with their children, Lech Michał and Janina, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Miłobędzka Ewa, Interview with Janina Rościszewska-Krawczyk, 11.05.2009
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu