"The was no such feeling towards me anywhere else" - the Story of the Jasik Family
In 1940, the tenement at Krochmalna 12 in Warsaw, where the Jasik family lived, found itself within the grounds of the ghetto. The family had to move into a part of a building on the "Aryan side". The ghetto wall could be seen from one of the windows. They could see the smuggling happening, something in which the teenage Janina Jasik participated. The whole family extended help to their Jewish friends and, for several weeks, they took in eleven-year-old Larissa Cain. The girl survived the War. She is a writer, living in France. She recalled, "There was no such feeling towards me anywhere else, like there was in the Jasik family”.
The Jasik Family - Polish Residents in the Jewish District of Warsaw
The Jasik family was from Warsaw. After World War I, for a certain period, they lived in Wojutycze in the Samborski District (today in Ukraine), where the father of the family worked in the local distillery. However, due to the children's education, in 1930, the Jasik family returned to Warsaw. In 1934, they settled in the Śródmieście suburb, in a tenement at ul. Krochmalna 12.
That part of Warsaw was inhabited mostly by Jews. In 2018, in an interview for the POLIN Museum, Janina Garbień, one of the Jasik's daughters, recalls:
There were not many Polish families there. I played with Jewish children and made friends with them. We would go together to the Saski Gardens.I especially liked Chaimek, who impressed me with his knowledge and was so polite and pleasant. When I saw, through the window, that Chaimek was in the yard, I wanted to take the rubbish out straight away, so that I could meet up with him.
On Krochmalna, the Jasik family could observe Jewish traditions.
One year, there were huts in the courtyard and we really liked that. The fresh greenery smelled so nice
Janina also remembers the cried at funerals and of the Jewish traders in the courtyards. The Jasiks' window overlooked the synagogue.
Once, I was walking with my mother across the yard and […] a neighbour from the ground floor came up to us and apologised to mum that he didn't greet her when he was on his way to the synagogue, because it was not permitted to look at women.
The Polish family took over the apartment from an insolvent Jewish tenant who had ransacked the place prior to his eviction. Among other things, he had destroyed the electrical fittings and the oven. The apartment needed renovation. As Janina recalled, her parents bought furniture from the Jewish owner of a factory at Młocińska 13 - Samuel Magid. He employed Janina's father in the factory as a locksmith and restorer. Both families were friendly with each other and invited each other for important celebrations, e.g. weddings.
The House in the Grounds of the Warsaw Ghetto
In 1940, the Jasik family were forced to move out. The tenement, on the ulica Krochmalna side, was attached to the Warsaw ghetto grounds, so that all Polish fmailies had to move out of it. The Jasik family then exchanged apartments with a Jewish family who lived on the other side of the tenement, at Plac Mirowski 9.
Soon after, in 1941, the fatherof the family, Michał Jasik, died as the result of illness. From that time, Kazimiera had to take care of herself and her children. Her daughters helped her earn money to upport themselves. The eldest son, Mieczysław, was already living then with his wife Barbara and, in 1943, they moved to Magdalenka near Warsaw.
Smuggling Food Into the Ghetto
One of the windows of the Jasiks' new apartment overlooked the yard where the ghetto wall had been built. From there, one could also see a fragment of the Jewish district. This was where food smuggling often took place. Janina watched the smugglers' activities. "I saw the sacks that went through the wall” and she, and her sister-in-law Barbara, became active participants. They were joined in this activity by her childhood companion, Chaim.
We arranged with Chaim that he would give me a bag. There were movable bricks in the wall which could come out. There would be money in there, together with an order for, for example, flour, buckwheat, marmalade, etc..
Passing the ordered food through the wall was very difficult due to the "navy-blue" and Jewish police patrols. According to Janina Garbień, it happened that, in that place, the police had been paid off by the wholesale dealers, which gave them the opportunity to get packages through. The bag was hung on a hook and lowered down the other side of the wall.
More than once, Chaim snuck through the attic to the Jasiks' apartment on the "Aryan Side".
He would tell us what life was like [in the ghetto]. My brother Mieczysław suggested that he stay on the Aryan side. Chaimek had an acceptable appearance and my brother had contacts with an aid organisation. I don't know what it was called.
At some point, Janina lost contact with the boy. She does not know what happened to him.
Help Given to Jewish Friends
From the beginning of the Wrsaw ghetto, the Jasik family helped their Jewish friends. In 1941, following the death of Michał Jasik, the factory owner, Magid, appeared at their home. Janina recalled:
He came to us at night, after curfew, following some operation in the ghetto […]. He stunk terribly, very dirty and said that he had managed to survive because he had jumoed into a cesspool and covered his head with a newspaper. Of course, mum gave him some of my father's clothes. He washed himself and his daughthers were notified. They came to take him from us. He couldn't stay because of his bad aappearance.
The man returned to the ghetto. He did not survive the War.
Marian Tennenbaum also came to us. He was employed in a factory on the Aryan side.
He was using "Aryan papers" under the name Aleksander Pilecki. One day, having made arrangements with my brother Mieczysław and with mum, he brought his ten-year-old niece, Larissa.
The Girl From the Ghetto Was Hidden for Several Weeks
Larissa Sztorchan was born in 1932 in Sosnowiec. Her father was a carpenter and her mother a nurse. From 1934, they lived in Warsaw, where they ran a sweetshop. Her mother had perished during the major liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. The girl remained with her father, who also perished shortly thereafter. Most probably in 1942, her uncle Marian, her mother's brother, led Larissa out of the ghetto. Initially, she stayed with two unknown Polish families. She then came to the home of Kazimiera Jasik.
She was such a cheerful girl. She didn't know that her mother and father had died. It was then that my sister, who was studying in a dressmaking school, made her a dress. There was not much to it. It was made from a screen with large flowers. Laryssa stood in front of the mirror and said that my mother would really like it because she looked so pretty in that dress. Her mother was dead and mymother then raninto the kitchen because she didn't want Larissa to see her crying....
The girl lived in the Jasiks' home for several weeks. She was mainly looked after by Helena, one of the sisters. At that time, Janina was not in Warsaw. She was with family in Podlasie. When relatives or friends came to the home,.Larissa was introduced as a cousin from Siedlce who needed help. With the support of Father Marcel Godlewski, the parish priest of All Saints Church on Plac Grzybowski in Warsaw, she was given a false baptismal certificate under the name of "Maria Kozłowska".
"There was no such feeling towards me anywhere else”
Due to the location of the Jasiks' apartment, Larissa could not stay there any longer. In February 1943, her uncle placed her with another family. This was not the last address for the girl in hiding. Not every family gave the warmth which she received from the Jasiks. In 2018, during the ceremony honouring her benefactors with the title of Righteous Among the Nations, she stressed:
I am amazed that [Helena] didn't forget my stay with her family - this little girl who was Polish with Jewish origins and who was therefore condemned to death. That child survived the War and persecution, a little thanks to her family. Even though I couldn't stay with them longer, there was no such feeling towards me anywhere else like I received from the Jasik family.
The Warsaw Uprising
After a two-year stay in Podlasie, Janina returned to Warsaw, just prior to the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. As a result of the first battles and explosions, the apartment's windows were so hot that Janina took down the curtains so that they would not catch fire. She damaged them in do so. "The next day, there were no curtains, no window and no home”. Together with her mother and sisters, they went down into a shelter on Krochmalna, where they remained for several days.
In a grey bag, there were two dresses I liked, a skirt with braces and two blouses, new brown lace-up shoes, a raincoat, my seventh-grade completion certificate which I was so proud of and a small cosmetic case with Nivea cream and lipstick. Most important were a few valuable photos of mummy and daddy and some food - a bag of flour and dry bread. I took that bag with me to the shelter whenever there were alarms and air-raids. I always had it with me. It turned out that its contents were all that remained of our apartment.
They sheltered on ulica Pańska, in a sweets factory and then later on ulica Konopczyńska, in a school building, together with other people who had lost their homes. Janina fought in the Uprising, sewing bags for grenades, carrying food and water. After the fall of the Uprising, Kazimiera and her daughters went to the transit camp in Pruszków. Kazimiera and Helena were taken by the Red Cross, while Janina and Maria were sent to Kahle and Ilsenburg, to work camps in Germany, where they sewed covers for aeroplane seats. Janina returned to Poland severely wounded, having been accidentally shot in a battle between German and American forces.
"She came to be my younger sister”
More than sixty years after the War, Mariusz Zapotocki-Zapalski, Helena's grandson, located the surviving Larissa. In 1954, the girl found herself in in orphanage for Jewish children in Otwock. There, she was found by her mother's sister and went to relatives in France.
"She came to be my younger sister", said Helena, when Larissa came to visit her in Jelena Góra. Larissa also stressed important it was for her to meet the daughters of Kazimiera Jasik. She said, "I found a new family”. From that time, the families have met regularly and have maintained contact.
Larissa Cain lives in Paris. SHe is the author of numerous books, mainly memoirs of the period of occupation, as well as a biography of Irena Adamowicz.
At Larissa's initiative, in 2018, the Jasik family was honoured with the title of "Righteous Among the Nations".