The Zalewski Family

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The story of the Zalewski family

Wanda and Jerzy Zalewski, a young married couple during the war, lived on 51 Sienna Street in Warsaw. In October 1942, they placed an ad in the Kurier Warszawski (Warsaw Courier) that they were looking for a babysitter for their then 1.5-year-old daughter. Helena Majewska, a 16-year-old girl, responded to the ad.

Helena’s real name was Hania Tal, and she was a confectioner’s daughter. She had reached Warsaw after escaping from her family town of Zawichost. Her mother and two sisters were deported and probably died in a death camp. Her brother and pregnant sister-in-law managed to escape. On the train to Warsaw, Hania stole a birth certificate from a girl she happened to meet.

Wanda and Jerzy had quickly realized that Hania was Jewish, but they allowed her to stay. She took care of the baby, and received salary for her work. Wanda Zalewska recollects in an interview she gave for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, “What was I to do? We were sorry for the girl. We had already got to like her and what were we supposed to do?” Hania felt safe living in a large tenement house, where inhabitants had lived anonymously. She maintained phone contact with her sister-in-law and her brother, until he was discovered and shot on the street. According to another account, he died after being denounced by the owner of the room, in which he and his wife had lived.

In June 1943, The Zalewskis rented a summer house in Skolimów near Warsaw. There, the young girl began to arouse suspicion. After a German revision, the Zalewskis had made a decision that Hania should return to Warsaw. Jerzy placed her with his parents on Twarda Street. After a few days, Hania found new work. She was employed as Maja Lech’s caretaker. She stayed with the Lechs until the end of the war. She immigrated to Israel. She found the Zalewskis in 1989.

Jerzy Zalewski actively participated in the Warsaw Uprising. Injured in his leg, he went with his wife and daughter to Chyliczki. In January 1945, he returned to the ruined Warsaw. For many years they had not known if Hania survived the war.

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