The Turczynski Family

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The story of the Turczyński family

Just after the outbreak of World War II, Bolesław Turczyński, his wife Helena and their daughters Zofia and Wanda settled in Brwinów near Warsaw, at 28 Leśna Street. Altogether 14 Jews found shelter in this little house on the periphery of the town in different periods of the occupation. It was Helena Turczyńska who organized that help – “the woman with a great heart”.

The first to hide on Leśna Street was Mrs. Wajsblat – an affluent owner of building materials, traveling together with her daughter-in-law and adolescent grandchildren. She knew the Turczyński family – before the war, her sons had been selling them building materials for the construction of the house in Brwinów. The Wajsblat family stayed with the Turczyńskis for a few months, i.e. until the summer of 1941, but Helena never stopped supporting them till the very end of World War II.

It was thanks to the information from the Wajblats that Adam Gutgisser, a doctor of microbiology, learned about the Polish family helping Jews. Gutgisser used at that time a false kennkarte for the name of Drozdowicz. After “leaving the ghetto” in December 1942, he hid “on the Aryan side” of the city. Drozdowicz organized protection for other fugitives from the ghetto (he provided them with money obtained from the Polish Council to Aid Jews “Żegota”, found shelter for them, and he also assisted at several “operations to liquidate the traces of circumcision”).

The first person that Drozdowicz brought along to the Turczyńskis in 1942 was his mother-in-law Anna Mintz, a dentist. Two days later he was also to lead out from the ghetto his wife and father. Unfortunately, when he came back for them, they were already gone. They died in Treblinka extermination camp.

In the early spring of 1943, Gutgisser-Drozdowicz brought to Brwinów a friend from college named Bela Montrol with her daughter Lusia, and after a few months – another two women from the Gothelf family with their sons. The Gothelfs were formerly the family of wealthy industrialists.

The Jews stayed at home. Gathered in one of the rooms, they tried not to make too much noise because of one of the tenants who was suspected of her pro-Nazi sympathies. When the number of the fugitives rose, the householder and Drozdowicz dug out a shelter below the room’s floor, which saved everybody’s lives during the upcoming German revision. The Nazi searched the whole house, but could not find the Jews hidden below the floor. The Turczyńskis suspected that it was the tenant that had tipped the enemy off.

After this incident, the Gothelfs signed up for the departure via the “Hotel Polski” and probably died afterwards. Bela Montrol and her daughter moved to another hiding place. However, she returned to the Turczyński family at the beginning of 1944, but when in the spring of that same year the withdrawing German forces took up two rooms in the house on Leśna Street, Drozdowicz found for the woman and her child, as well as for Anna Mintz, a new hiding place in Praga borough of Warsaw. They lived there until the Soviet forces liberated the city.

In September 1944 the Gorodecki family consisting of Jadwiga, Krystyna, Piotr and his mother, who were friends of Adam Drozdowicz-Gutgisser, escaped from the camp in Pruszków. They stayed with the Turczyńskis’ until the Soviet Army marched into that territory in January 1945.

When World War II ended, the Turczyński family kept maintaining close contact with the majority of the Jewish survivors and their families. This is how Bela Montrol describes the Rescuers: “We felt as though we were part of the family. Although they were all risking their lives and the times were very harsh, they never made us feel that we were some kind of burden on them”.

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