Szmurło Helena

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The Story of the Szmurło Family

The Szmurło family lived in the settlement of Płosodrza, on the Mordy–Łosice road, not far from Siedlce. During the German occupation, thirteen people lived there:

  • Helena (née Biernacki) Szmurłow (b. 1891) – the widow of Bolesław Szmurło (1882-1937)
  • Lucjan Szmurło (b. 1912) – the son of Helena and Bolesław
  • Lucyna (née Wierzbicki) Szmurło (b. 1917) 
  • Brothers Stanisław (b. 1937), Krzysztof (b. 1939), Eugeniusz (b. 1941) and Wiesław (b. 1943) – the sons of Lucjan and Lucyna Szmurło
  • Jadwiga Szmurło-Wasilewska (b. 1914)
  • Alfons Szmurło (b. 1916)
  • Marianna Szmurło-Górska (b. 1919)
  • Zofia Szmurło-Giernicka (b. 1924)
  • Antoni Szmurło (b. 1927)
  • Krystyna Szmurło-Suska (b. 1930)

Mosze Smolarz came from Mordy, 8 kms from Płosodrza. His family had lived in this area for several generations. At the beginning of the 1930's, Mosze became friendly with Lucjan Szmurło. They were the same age. He would be a guest on the farm. They got along and Mosze, who traded in cattle, utilised the Szmurło cowsheds, in which he held horses and cattle prior to their sale. They worked together until the outbreak of war.

In August 1942, on the Siedlce–Małkinia road, Mosze Smolarz jumped off a transport heading to Treblinka. He wanted to commit suicide following the death of his two-year-old daughter, who died on the train from a lack of water and air. He survived the junp. His wife perished in Treblinka. During the following nights, he conquered the fifty kilometres to the Szmurło farm.

Fields surrounded the Szmurło buildings. To the north and west of these lay wooded areas. For a year, the Szmurło family hid Mosze Smolarz in the dug-out under a sheep pen. Later, he was moved to a dug-out under a harvester in the barn.

Smolarz's presence was maintained as a secret. Kazimierz Szmurło, son of Lucjan born in 1945, wrote “Once, my mother's younger sister (…) Bogumiła Wierzbicka-Mężyńska (…), on a visit, noticed his presence. When she asked who he was, her own sister (…) gave her an evasive answer, with a clear instruction that she should not tell anyone about him!”. 

When conditions allowed, Mosze Smolarz emerged from hiding. He would then eat with the household. He helped with the farmwork – he loved milking the cows. Kazimierz Szmurło noted, “It's late in the evening. Right after dinner. Mr Smolarz goes to spend the night in his hiding-place in the cowshed”. He notices that the pig is giving birth. And when the seventh, beautiful and healthy piglet appears, he runs to the house, screaming the joyful news to dad (...), 'Lutek, there are seven already!!!'”.

One day, Germans appeared unexpectedly. They searched for Jews. After several hours of inspection, one of the Germans hit Alfons Szmurło, Lucjan's brother, in the face. An insult followed – “You Polish pig!”. When they left, Mr Smolarz emerged from his hiding-place trembling. “Not lacking a sense of humour, my uncle remarked, 'Why are you shaking like that? It was me, after all, who got it in the face, not you!'”, according to Kazimierz.  

Some time later, Mosze Smolarz's younger brother also found refuge with the Szmurło family. The Soviet offensive took place in July 1944. The Szmurło barn was taken over by retreating units of Hungarians, who were supporting the Germans in the war against the Soviet Union. The family was cut off from the brothers who were hding there. “Grandma Helena came up with the idea that her youngest children, Krysia and Antoś, would play with balls in the yard. She hid bread and hard-boiled eggs inside the balls. The siblings (…) would toss the food into the hiding-place as though tossing the ball which would, by chance, end up in the barn”.

Prawdopodobnie trzeciego  dnia obecności Węgrów w obejściu, w południe, kiedy żołnierze wyszli na posiłek, młodszy z braci Smolarzów próbował uciec w stronę Wolańskiego Lasu. Jeden z wartowników zastrzelił go w połowie drogi przez pola. Podejrzewając, że to partyzant, Węgrzy wszczęli alarm. “Wywlekli z domu […] mego Tatę trzymającego na rękach kilkumiesięcznego […] Wiesia”, napisał w relacji pan Kazimierz. “Klęczący zrozpaczony mój Ojciec zaczął tłumaczyć, że nie doszło do żadnej zasadzki, […] że zastrzelony to… jego młodszy brat Alfons!”. Celujący w niego Węgier uwierzył i odstąpił od zamiaru egzekucji.

At that time, other soldiers moved out of the neighbouring house of Józef Wyrzykowski, a relative of the Szmurło family. Kazimierz recorded the course of events, based on accounts by Zygmunt Wyrzykowski, Józef's sixteen-year-old son.

“(…) harvesters are cutting rye in our fields and he is guarding the cows, grazing in the forest and sheep from the homestead. At some point, he hears shots coming from the buildings. The harvesters drop their scythes and hide in the rows of rye sitting on the stubble. (…] When the shooting quietens a little, the frightened Zygmunt leaves the forest, pretending to be a harvester gathering the sheaves. (...) Suddenly, he hears the horrible whistle of a bullet. Paralysed, he can't even manage to hit the ground. . A second shot sounds hitting the sheaf of rye he held in his hands. He then notices that a soldier is standing one hundred metres away from him. He doesn't remember what happened later, when he opened his eyes and saw the soldier, closing in and pointing a rifle at him. He was so paralysed that he didn't even run away. And maybe that's what saved his life (…). The soldier came closer and indicated, with his hand, that he was to take the cows and chase them home. When he was running like that, the soldier, with his rifle at the ready, followed him the whole time. Somewhere, about halfway home, he sees several armed soldiers leading his father towards the forest. (…) Desperately, he cries out, "Daddy! Daddy!" His father was chalk-white, with tears running down his face. The soldiers with his father did not stop. They went further towards the forest. When he had brought the cows home, only then did the soldier leave him. At home, he told his mother what he had seen. In unspeakable despair, everyone listened as shots rang out. Fortunately, about half an hour later, dad returned home. The soldiers were convinced that there were really harvesters in the fields, not partisans, and that they had whetstones in their pockets, to sharpen the scythes, and not weapons!”.

The Hungarians left the following day. “Your lucky that it was us who were with you. If it had been the Germans, you'd be dead by now!”. The body of Mosze Smolarz's brother was buried in a grave near the forest, on the Biernaty Średnie village side.

After the War, Mosze Smolarz left for Israel. He established a family. He lived in Kiryat Bialik near Haifa. In the 1960's, he made mail contact with the Szmurło family.

On 21st February 1983, he wrote to Kazimierz, “I can assure you that I have never forgotten and always remember especially what your family did for me in those hard years of Nazi occupation of Poland. Thanks to the Szmurło brothers, I was alive and I can now write to you. Because they saved my life… You can be proud that you are a member of such a noble and good family. They did whatever they could in order to save my life and to also help others who were in my situation”.  

On 12th May 1986, Mosze Smolarz visited Płosodrza and met with the Szmurło family. He lived to be almost 95, dying in August 2006.

In 2014, Helena Szmurło, Kazimierz's grandmother, was posthumously honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Mosze Smolarz's sons, Adam Amnon Smolash and Isaac Sivan took part in the ceremony, as did his grandson Reem Smolash.