The Góra Family and Władysław Rozumek

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"They Were Children Just Like Us" - the Story of the Góra and Władysława Rozumek

Before the War, Kazimiera and Józef Góra, with their children Elżbieta and Włodzimierz, lived in Warsaw at 50 Twarda Street. Kazimiera was a telegraphist at the Department of Telecommunications and Telegraphics at Nowogrodzka Street. She belonged to the Polish Socialist Party (PPS).

At the beginning of the War, the burden of supporting the home fell to Kazimiera. She found employment at "U Bobra", a restaurant on Srebrna Street, and occasionally painted decorative Name Day cards. She was supported by her brother Władysław Rozumek, who produced furniture in Legionowo. During the occupation, he joined the underground Polish People's Army.

"Sometimes, the Germans offered children sweets. Mum taught us to thank them politely and to put the sweets into our pockets - not to eat them", recalls Elżbieta Jeziorska (nee Góra), at the time a very young child. "She said that they might be poisoned".

Shortly, Kazimiera opened a coffee shop near their home - "Słodka Dziurka", where she served coffee, tea and sweets. From a syphon, she served soda water and orange lemonade. Underground soldiers would often spend time inside the small shop. Collaborators also came. At those times, the children were moved into the courtyard. "My brother was friends with Wiesiek, the son of the hardware shop owner in our building. I had my own friends. We set up a dolls house near the gate. That was our main playground", recalls Elżbieta.

In November 1940, the Góra family found themselves inside the border of the ghetto. The family was moved into a nearby tenement on 78 Złota Street, on the corner of Twarda Street. "We were given an apartment which had been vacated by Jews. It was large, with three connecting rooms".

The "Słodka Dziurka” coffee shop also found itself behind the ghetto walls. When, on 5th October 1941, the Germans shifted the ghetto borders, Kazimiera re-opened her coffee shop. Barbed wire was placed along the length of Śliska Street.

"Jewish children would cross the barbed wire. They went into Warsaw for bread and potatoes. We could approach them, but not too closely because the Polish policemen would chase us away. Sometimes, we waited for them at the gate. On the quiet, we brought them lollipops, sweets, sandwiches and whatever we had. They were children just like us”.

There was a pharmacy at the corner of Twarda and Złota Streets. Its owner, Mrs Kronkowska, knew Władysław Rozumek. In April 1943, through her, Kazimiera took two Jewish children into her home.

"Mum said that a boy named Włodek and Teresa, the daughter of my godfather, Mr Kolbus, would be coming to live with us. We knew that she was not telling us the truth”. To this day, Elżbieta remembers a song in Yiddish which "Tereska" had taught her, but does not know the meaning of the words. "I said nothing about this to the children in the courtyard. We knew that it was not permitted to talk about these things".

Only their closest family and a trusted neighbour, Mrs Sowińska, knew about the presence of the boy and the little girl. The two children were provided with papers as the Góra children. For this reason, Elżbieta went to live with Władysław in Legionowo. Her brother Włodzimierz went to his father's neigbourhood. They would come home of Saturdays and Sundays. Elżbieta recalls how careful her mother was, "She didn't even let us to look out of the window".

From the time they moved onto Złota Street, Kazimiera rented out one of the rooms in the apartment. The room had a separate entrance and the two connecting doors were always kept locked. After she had taken the Jewish children in to her home, Kazimiera had been afraid to accept new tenants. Persuaded by Władysław, she rented the room to a man who ran a bureau. He was rarely at home.

In July 1943, a shout resounded in the apartment. Kazimiera happened to be out shopping and the children were playing. The man in the rented room had been shot. On her return home, Kazimiera called Władysław to take the children. They reached the village of Kiczki, near Mienia, where, before the war, the Góra family would go on their summer holidays. She then telephoned the Gestapo.

Following that tragic event, the Germans would often search the Góra apartment, but Elżbieta returned permanently to her mother's care. They lived together until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.

"A bomb fell on a (nearby) toy shop. My brother and I moved half of the shop into our basement for all the children. When a shell hit our home, my friends died in the basement. Their mother was in shock. During an air raid, milk was heated for the youngest child in the apartment upstairs. She had luckily moved out of the ruins and had survived. Her children buried under pavement slabs".

The Góra family shared the same fate as the other residents after the Warsaw Uprising. The were forced into the Western Railway Station, were taken out of the city, via the camp in Pruszków. At that time, Kazimiera gave birth to a son. During the following months, they spent time in Czatkowice, where they were taken in by the Kaczmarczyk family.

"It's night, and mum isn't sleeping. I see that she's doing something. She's making a doll for me! I barely slept half the night, because I was secretly watching her. It already had one eye and soon, the other one. It was to be my Christmas present in 1944".

After the War, for several years, the family settled in Gdańsk. At that time, the burnt-out walls of the tenement on Twarda Street were demolished and the bricks used in the building of the Palace of Science and Culture.

Upon returning to Warsaw in 1953, Kazimiera again worked as a telegraphist. She died two years later.

"During the War, among my mother's things, I found pearls. Apart from a ring, she never had anything valuable. She had left a string of pearls. Perhaps it was a payment for help she had given", said Elżbieta Jeziorska. Finally, she adds, "Mum was a brave person".

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Mateusz Szczepaniak, 5.04.2016
  • Elżbieta Jeziorska, Słodka Dziurka, Czarny rok, czarne lata, Warszawa 2010
  • Engelking Barbara, Leociak Jacek, Getto warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejącym mieście, Warszawa 2001

    The publication carefully reconstructs the non-existent Jewish quarter in Warsaw. The authors put emphasis on the description of everyday life of the ghetto.