The Kwiecinski Family

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"You were all like guardian angels caring for us" – the story of the Kwieciński family

Before the outbreak of World War II, Chaim (Henryk) and Chaja (Helena) Tejblum lived in Warsaw, on Nalewki Street. Chaim owned "Syrena", a small textile factory making, among other things, bathing costumes. In 1936, the Tejblum couple had a son, Salomon (Seweryn).

In October 1940, their apartment found itself with the borders of the ghetto. "Syrena" formally became the property of a former Polish employee named Woźnica, who helped the Tejblums. He employed them in the factory and helped them financially.

Henryk was soon arrested outside the ghetto and perished in unknown circumstances. In 1942, having obtained false papers under the name "Helena Nowacka" and "Andrzej Nowacki”, Helena and her son managed to get to the "Aryan side". With Woźnica's help, the mother and son first hid in Otwock, from where they fled for fear of denunciation. They were next offered shelter by Janina Kwiecińska.

Before the War,Janina Kwiecińska was an actress. Her husband was also an actor. They had three daughters – Janina, Maria and Hanna. During the occupation, she did not want to act in the theatre. However, due to the fact that she spoke fluent German, she took a job in the housing administration.

Many Jews came and went through her apartment at 42 Krucza Street. They were mainly friends from her theatrical circle. Kwiecińska helped them to find safe hiding places and to obtain false papers.

In a statement to the Jewish Historical Institute, Janina Bagłajewska, the Kwiecińskis' daughter, wrote the following about her mother, "Her motivations were both friendship (from before the War) and purely humanitarian. Many Jews came through our home. My mother helped them to find safe places to survive the period of occupation. Unfortunately, I can't substantiate this as I don't know the surnames of those people. I also don't know if those people are still alive".

Helena and her son found themselves on Krucza Street in 1942. In 1941, Antoni Serbiewski (Zygmunt Keller) had already appeared at the apartment. The girls called him "Uncle". Hanna Morawiecka, in an interview in 2009, recalls her mother explaining about the need to keep an absolute secret, "He is a Jew who will go into hiding (..). You will have to be very nice to him because he is very unhappy. I'll organise a passport for him".

Neither Antoni nor little Andrzej left the home. Andrzej's head was bandaged so as to cover his prominent ears. The Kwiecińskis' daughters brought the boy books  about the Wild West. They played cards and chess with him, as well as inventing various games to play.

In 1942, the Gestapo searched the home. However, Andrzej. hidden there, was not discovered. Kwiecińska's husband was arrested and taken to Pawiak prison, after which he was sent to the camps at Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Having been warned about denunciation by the caretaker (Zajączkowski), Kwiecińska, her daughter and the Jews under her care, were forced to move to another apartment, on Alberta Street.

Following the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, Janina, her daughter, Helena and Andrzej, hid themselves amongst the crowd of civilians under St. Antoni's church on Senatorska Street. At that time, the Alberta Street building was burned down. After the uprising was put down, they were forced out of the city via Pruszków but, along the way, in the town of Zielonka, they managed to escape. They hid in a villa with the Pogonowski family and then, later, with friends of the Kwiecińskis' in Rylsk, and then in Koluszki.

Kwiecińska. together with her daughters, returned to Warsaw. Soon Antoni located them there – at the time, again as "Zygmunt Keller". He came bearing flowers, thanking them for saving his life. He then left for Sweden where he soon passed away.  

Kwiecińska no longer worked in the theatre. She divorced her husband, who had returned from the camps. She then remarried.

Contact with Helena and Andrzej was broken. They had left for Łódż and, in 1950, emigrated to Israel where Helena remarried. In 1975, Andrzej left for the USA, where he worked as an engineer.

It was in 1983, after many attempts, Andrzej managed to locate the Kwiecińskis' daughters in Warsaw. The families began exchanging correspondence. In a letter to the Kwiecińskis, Helena wrote, "Dear Jasia and Marysia, you were always grown up. Of course, that was due to the War where children never had a childhood. The most serious mother was Jasia –  a second mother to all". In her letters, Helena stressed her close relationship with Kwiecińska and her sincerity. "At those times, such noble people such as Janina and you, dear girls, were rare. You were all like guardian angels caring for us".

From that time, Helena and Andrzej have supported the Kwieciński daughters financially.

In 1989, the Yad Vashem Institute honoured Janina Kwiecińska and her daughters, Janina Bagłajewska, Maria Zdanowicz and Hanna Morawiecka, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

 

In the autumn of 2004, at the invitation of the Foundation for the Righteous, Hanna Morawiecka came to New York and, for the first time since 1945, she met Andrzej. He presented her to journalists as his "little sister". She responded, "Now, after forty five years of separation, it feels like we only parted yesterday".

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust, 2003
  • Bill Tammeus, Jacques Cukierkorn, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, Missouri 2009
  • Archiwum Instytutu Yad Vashem, Righteous Among the Nations, 4210