Celinska Zofia

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The story of Zofia Celińska

During World War II, Zofia Celińska, sister of a journalist Jan Józef Lipski, lived with her parents in Warsaw at 69 Filtrowa Street. For many months during the Holocaust, she hid her school friends – Zofia Lewinówna and Ola Zweibaum. Lewinówna’s uncle, Władysław and Rachela Kohen also found shelter in this apartment.


“50% were Jewish, 50% were not, and we had good relations in Junior High School. There was none of what you can see today”.

Although she is reluctant to speak of the past, Zofia Celińska clearly remembers her schoolmates from Warsaw Junior High School, and has given detailed accounts of their experiences, family and war-time stories. One of her schoolmates, Zofia Lewin, asked her family – the Lipskis – to provide shelter for her aunt and uncle, the Kohans. Zofia Lewin herself had already been hiding with the Lipskis for several months, and the girls attended underground classes together.

I was too young to make decisions. I had to convince my parents, which was no piece of cake.

The Kohans stayed with the Lipski family for about a year. Roman Lipski, Zofia’s father, prepared a hiding place for them, to be used in the event of a search. Tipped off by a neighbor about a planned German raid, the Lipskis found another place for the couple – an apartment in Milanówek near Warsaw.

The importance of assimilation

Today, Mrs Celińska describes the life that Jews had during the war as, ‘walking on a tightrope’. A twenty-year-old girl at the time, she distributed the Home Army’s “Information Bulletin”, worked to provide for her parents and two siblings, and apart from helping the permanent residents, also helped another school friend, Ola Zweibaum.

“She’d come to us, she would wash up, sometimes we’d give her some underwear, and then she’d be off”.

Ola came from a family who had assimilated and she had what was called ‘good looks’. She managed to get her family out of the ghetto. They survived.

Rachela Kohan spoke Polish poorly. It was easier to hide the Jews who had assimilated. The ones who had not assimilated, they had it very hard, and the risk was great. 

Władysław Kohan died of a heart attack during the war. Rachela Kohan, having learned of the evacuation of Warsaw, committed suicide. Zofia Lewin survived. She is co-author with Władysław Bartoszewski of one of the most important books about Holocaust rescuers in Poland: Ten jest z Ojczyzny mojej. Polacy z pomocą Żydom 1939–1945 (This is my Homeland. Poles Who Helped Jews 1939-1945).

On 11 July 2001, Zofia Celińska was honored by Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

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Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Warszawie, Dział Dokumentacji Odznaczeń Yad Vashem, 349/24/2523
  • Biczysko Julia, Interview with Zofia Celińska, 19.02.2009
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009