Choms Wladyslawa

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The Story of Władysława Choms

During World War I, Władysława Chomsowa was in Rusia, where her son, Wiesław (1913-1941), was born. After return to Poland in 1919 with her husband Fryderyk (1889–1951) – an officer in the Infantry Corpse, she lived first in Częstochowa and then in Wieluń, where her husband served. In 1928, the family moved to Drohobych and Fryderyk was nominated the Chief of the District Military Recruitment Office. Władysława was socially active. She was the first woman to stand for the election to the City Council, she was also a Head of the Social Welfare Committee and a cChairwoman of the Union of Women's Civic Labour in Drohobych.

When she was a child, Chomsowa kept close contact with her Jewish school colleagues. She heard in their houses stories of victims of anti-semitic violence. In Drohobych, she tried to help poor Jews through the cooperation with Dr. Leon Tenenbaum, Vice-Mayor of the City, who was also a Head of the Jewish Commune. It was under his influence that the spouses Choms became interested in the program of Zionist movement.

In 1934, they visited Palestine. While Fryderyk was interested in military issues and, after return to Poland, sent parcels with military regulations to Palestine, his wife was interested in the activity of political parties, social welfare and work of women's organizations -WIZO and Hadasa. She also wrote press articles and gave lectures on Palestine.

After Fryderyka had retired, in 1938, the Choms settled down in Lviv, where their son studied at the University of Technology. Władysława was in the group of Stanisław Olszewski (1902-1961), a founder of the Democratic Party in Lviv. The Choms took part in the funeral of Karola Zellermayer, a Jewish student of pharmacy, murdered by nationalist paramilitary groups in November 1938. In the same year, Chomsowa became a member of the Management Board of the Democratic Club in Lviv, and just before the outbreak of war -to the District Management Board of the Democratic Party. She translated Vladimir Burtsev's publication on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a forgery into Polish.

Both her son and her husband took part in the September Campaign. Fryderyk found himself in a prisoner-of-war camp, whilst Wiesław – a graduate of the Air Force Officer Cadet Training School in Dęblin – escaped to England. Chomsowa remained in Lvov, hiding under various names, at the same time being active in underground structures of the Regional Command of the Home Army, using the following pseudonyms: Danuta, Dionizy, Róża, Diana, Lalka. She was connected with the Polish Democratic Party.

She arranged a group of Poles supporting and saving Jews: they supplied food and weapons to the Lvov Ghetto, took men, women and children to hiding places in the city. They moved those in danger of unmasking to Warsaw, providing them with false documents. The activity of the group was funded by wealthy Jews who gave Chomsowa gold and jewellery which were sold.

In the letter of 1952, Zygmunt Chotiner wrote about Chomsowa: "Personally, I know many cases when she gave her last food, which, at that time, was difficult to obtain, to support Jews suffering from poverty." Jewish children from the ghetto were placed with 60 Polish families, in monasteries and orphanages. Chomsowa also wrote a memorial about the tragic fate of the Lvov Jews.

In May 1943, she was elected the Chairwoman of the regional Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" at the Government Delegation for Poland in Lvov. At the end of 1943, she had to move to Warsaw where she was still active underground and led one of the legalization units of the Home Army or the Delegation.

After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, she got through to Paris, where she found her husband. At that time, she learned about the death of her son in a fight in 1941. After her husband's death, she moved to London and she spent the last years of her life in Israel. She died in Haifa.

The Jews saved by her called her "the angel from Lvov," whilst she referred to them as their children and grandchildren. Zygmunt Chotiner wrote about Chomsowa: "I am deeply convinced that no words can describe what she attempted to do and what she had to suffer for helping us, Jews... She is a woman of warm heart, noble, pure, and all of us who know her feel a deep gratitude for everything she did for us, that she risked her own life to save ours."

In 1962, Bronia Tenenbaum underlined that "Her merits from the time of Hitler are indescribable [...] There are many people in the world saved by her who even do not know exactly who that angel-guardian was," whilst Dorota Taub wrote in her deposition: "Not only did she help us to survive, but also heartened us to keep living." Kurt R. Grossman wrote about her in the book Die Unbesungen Helden.Menschen in Deutschlands dunklen Tagen. Chomsowa herself described her activity in the testimonial for Yad Vashem.

In 1966, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Władysława Chomsowa the title of the Righteous Among the Nations. Giving her thanks to the Commission, Chomsowa wrote in a moving way not only about her closest ones, but also about her comrades from "Żegota": "The only painful thing is the thought that neither my husband, who died after five-year German captivity, nor my only son, an airman, fallen as early as in the first year of war, would not share my emotion. And, above all, a group of my comrades in the action of helping the Jewish co-citizens in Eastern Lesser Poland and in Warsaw 1941–1945."


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