The Rutkowski family

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The story of the Rutkowski family

Ludwik and Feliksa Rutkowski, and their seven children, lived in the village of Kołodeżno (Kowelski District, Wołyńskie Province) where they ran a farm. Prior to the war, they had been friendly with the Ruffe family, Jews who ran a laundry in nearby Kowel. Feliksa sold them various grocery items, such as eggs, milk and butter. The Ruffes' daughter, Dora, knew their daughter Helena, who was the same age.

At the beginning of the war, when Wołyń found itself under USSR occupation, the Rutkowski couple lost two sons. Soon after, they also found themselves as witnesses to German atrocities after they occupied Kowel on 28th June 1941. Around one thousand local Jews were killed in the first days alone.

On 21st May 1942, the Germans established to ghettoes in the town. The Ruffe family ended up in one of them. In the laundry they ran, they were not only forced to wash the clothes of the Germans, but also those of the Jews whom they murdered. When, in August, the liquidation of the ghetto took place, Aharon Ruffe gave his daughter a slice of bread and a bottle of water and told her to hide herself on the roof of a neighbouring building where, earlier, he had prepared a hiding place for her. There, together her father's friend, Cwi (Tzvi) Oksman, she heard the Jews being loaded onto lorries and driven out of the town.

After a few days, exhausted through thirst and the summer heat, Dora decided to seek help. Together with Cwi, she left the building through a window. They ran through the empty streets of Kowel to escape the town. It was then she decided to turn for help to friends, the Rutkowski family.

The Polish family suggested that sixteen year old Dora hide herself in the attic, where they assured her that they would give her all that she needed. In view of the danger which threatened, the girl seldom emerged from her hiding place. Sometimes, she visited Cwi who, together with a cousin, had found shelter with relatives of the Rutkowskis' in another part of the village.

During one of those visits, after being in hiding with the Rutkowski family for almost a year, Dora encountered a search of the house where Cwi lived. The Germans were looking partisans. Fortunately, Dora was carrying false papers with her, identifying her as "Helena Rutkowska". She had done that without the knowledge of the family, but it had saved her life. The Germans allowed her to leave, but confiscated the papers.

Not wishing to expose the Rutkowski family to greater danger, Dora began looking for another hiding place. She crossed the Bug River and reached Chełm where, under another false identity, she survived to see the end of the war.

After the war, she returned to Kowel, where she met her future husband. They settled in Siedliszcze, then later in Łódż. In 1948, they emigrated to Israel. They settled permanently in Tel Aviv, where they established a family.

The Rutkowski family survived the Wołyń slaughter. After the War, they moved to Wólka Czułczycka, near Chełm, where they helped their son to run a farm. Feliksa died there in 1955. Following her passing, Ludwik went to live with his other son near Łódż. He died in 1960.

On 12th February 2008, at the request of Holocaust survivor Dora Gudis (nee Ruffe), Ludwik and Feliksa Rutkowski were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Instytutu Yad Vashem, Righteous Among the Nations, 10668
  • Uczniowie Szkoły Podstawowej nr 5 w Chełmie, 10.03.2017