The Hosticzko family
Trudging Through the Snow. The Story of the Hosticzko Family
During German occupation, Józef and Helena Hosticzko, and their children, helped their Jewish friend, Edwarda Finkielgluz. The girl hid in their home in the village of Palcze in Wołyń, as well as with their relatives. In 1943, they all fled from the slaughter in Wołyń.
They knew each other from Żytyn in Wołyń (today within Ukraine). The Hosticzko and Finkielgluz lived as neighbours – Józef Hosticzko served in the Boarder Protection Corps, while the Finkielgluz family ran a store. During an interview for POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Władysław Hosticzko recalled: “[…] they would tell us when they had fresh, fatty herrings”.
The Hosticzko children – Władysław and Leokadia – would play with the Finkielgluz children – Marysia, Edwarda and Abram: “Edzia went to school with my sister. She was often a guest [in our home – ed.]. Mum liked her very much”.
Helena Hosticzko owned some land, two or three kilometres from Palcze. Her relatives lived there. The Hosticzko family would go their on vacation: “Edzia knew the address and the name of the place”.
Soviet Occupation (1939) and German Occupation (1941) – the Situation in the Village
Following the outbreak of World War II and the occupation of Wołyń by the Russians, the Hosticzko family fled to the village, to their relatives. “My aunt, my mother's sister, give us one walk-through room”. In 1941, the area was taken over by the Germans.
They lived in farms scattered across fields. “[…] In accordance with the occupier's regulations, on the door of each cottage, there needed to hang a list, confirmed by the village head, of all people residing there. The occupiers would often check this, especially at night”. The Germans would check who lived there, due to the proximity of the railway junction and also due to partisan activity. The Germans forbade farmers from using grain for the needs of their own farms.
“Everything was done in secret. There was nothing. We had coffee – roasted barley, sugar – sugar beet syrup. […] My father would take me with him when we wanted to grind some flour in the mill. I really didn’t like it”.
Edwarda’s Escape from the Ghetto – Being Denounced to the Germans
In 1942, the Finkielgluz family, with the exception of Maria who had escaped to the East, were locked into the ghetto Aleksandria near Równe. “[…] The commandant of the camp [ghetto – ed.], a German, spotted Edzia […] and used her to clean his villa. One day, he said, ‘You don’t look Jewish. Come and clean tomorrow and, when you finish, run away. I won’t come looking for you”.
The girl did not want to be separated from her family. “At least, you’ll save yourself”, they urged her. Edwarda escaped to the “Aryan side”. She wandered around amongst her friends. She had false identity papers made for her under the name of “Antonina Szorc”.
“One day, in Żytyń, […] a Ukrainian friend met her. […] ‘Edzia, you're atill alive?’. He grabbed her by the sleeve, stopped a […] Wermacht car […], ‘She is Jewish, take her’. They took her […]. When he had left, they said, ‘We’re driving to Łuck. When we stop, you jump out”.
On the road to Łuck was the village of Palcze, where the Hosticzko family lived. She told the Germans where to stop and she jumped out.
Palcze – Help from the Hosticzko Family
It was January – a frost, thirty degrees below zero. Edwarda came in the eveningwhen the Hosticzko family had gone to sleep.
“[…] She was dirty, frozen, scared, flea-ridden and said, ‘Helena, you’re saving me! My family has already been killed. I survived. I have nowhere to go’. […] We took her in. […] We created a space behind the wardrobe, where she remained throughout the day. In the evening, when there was no one around, we took her out for a walk and for some fresh air”.
The Germans came to farmers for food. The Hosticzko family were afraid. They considered that it would be safer to move Edwarda to the farm of one of Helena’s brothers, Jan Sieredzyński. On the way to the new hiding place, the girl was accompanied by Władysław Hosticzko.
“It was frosty morning, we trudged through snowy back-tracks so as not to encounter anyone […] We waded through snow for three hours covering six kilometres. I showed her the farm. […] She introduced herself, said where she had come frfom, who she knew, whohad sent her and they took her in. There was the shadow of suspicion that maybe she was a Jew. They told her to pray. She knew how to pray in Polish”.
She went to church with her hosts. She confessed to a priest that she was Jewish. He told her, “Don’t just come for communion”.
Edwarda worked hard on the farm. The Hosticzko family visited her.
Wołyń 1943 – Escaping From Ukrainian Nationalists
In the spring of 1943, units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the so-called “Banderites”, attacked the Polish population living in Wołyń. The Hosticzko fled to the Armatniów station: “[…] The station was guarded by Germans or Hungarians, it was a little safer there”.
Helenawent to friends in Palcze, on just the day of the Ukrainian invasion: “The residents had prepared themselves. They had dug tunnels, basements. […] When they attacked, everyone went into the basement. […] They set fire to the home. They escaped through the tunnels to the river and remained there until morning”.
After some time, the Hosticzko family moved to the town of Kwerce. Edwarda and her hosts managed to get to Łuck: “[…] There she was met by the Russians, who had entered in January 1944”.
Gratitude – the Postwar Fate of the Rescued and the Rescuers
In 1945, Edwarda located the Hosticzko family through the Red Cross. As the result of repatriation, they had come to Warsaw – just like her. She lived on Narbutta Street, in the Warsaw suburb of Mokotów, with her sister Maria, who had survived the war in the East. Władysław recalled: “They had a nice host. ‘You’re a poor student. You’ll come to me for dinner”, she said.
During the Stalinist period, Józef Hosticzko was stood before the court. Edwarda, who at the time worked for the Ministry of National Defence, testified in his favour.
“My father had told a political joke. He was a prewar military man and they immediately locked him up. […] She introduced herself, ‘I’m on your side but, today, I’m on his side’. She appeared as a defence witness and told how he had saved her”.
March 1968 – Emigration From Poland
At the end of the 1950’s, Edwarda married Mr Siekiera, a Polish Army colonel. “In 1968, the communist authorities stirred up trouble against the Jews, dismissing Jews from the Army. They sacked him also. They didn’t want to leave as they’d been birn here. […] In 1971 or 1972, they decided to leave, as they had no means to live here”.
Siekiera’s father, living in London, helped them. Władysław Hosticzko visited the Siekiera family in the 1980’s. After 1989, Edwarda regained her Polish passport and would visit often.
Honoured With the title of Righteous
Edwarda Siekiera wrote her story for the Yad Vasahem Institute:
“[…] They were the only people who helped me and cared for me, knowing my identity. […] I remember the day-after-day events of that period and, often in my dreams, I experience the tragedy again. I’m unable to shed the feelings of horror, fear and loneliness - being hounded like a dog […]. They helped me to survive. […] Each of them deserves the title”.