The Szalaj Family

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The story of the Szałaj family

Czesława Chojnacka, née Szałaj was born in 1925 in Kolonia Natalin. Czesława recalls that before the World War Two Poles, Germans, Jews and Ukrainians lived in their village in harmony. When the war broke out, her family witnessed massacres of local Jews by the Nazis who forced Poles to bury the bodies and do other work. When Czesława's father refused to carry out some task, he was beaten to death. Czesława recounts that poverty crept into the village and the persecuted Jews were particularly afflicted as they could not work and had to hide.

Czesława’s family helped the neighbor’s family hide and provided them with food. They were six of them: Symcho Bursztyn, his three daughters Hynda, Symcha and Haja and his two sons Sznajer and Jankiel. Their mother was killed when she went to a town. After some time, when the inhabitants of the village found out that the Szałajs were sheltering the Jews. Symcho and his family had to leave and hide in the woods. The children lived in a tunnel, they had a dug. Their father hid in a different place. Czesława brought them soup and bread. In Winter, they came to their house to warm themselves up and wash. In Spring, someone found their footprints in the snow and turned them in. The sisters were killed, the brothers managed to run away and joined the guerrillas. They survived the war. After the war, they came back to the village and settled back in their own house for some time. The sisters were buried on the Jewish cemetery in Chełm. Symcho and their sons went to Israel. A few years ago, one of the brothers came to visit the Szałajs.  

Prepared based on the relation, recorded in the framework of the project Lights In The Darkness – The Righteous Among The Nations", courtesy of the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre in Lublin.

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Bibliography

  • Czajkowski Tomasz, Interview with Czesława Chojnacka , 1.01.2003