Dwora Winokur-Rozencwaig and her Mother Bela Winokur-Kantorowicz-Shechter - the Survivors

Dwora Winokur was born in Widze, near Vilnius (in contemporary Belarus), on 2 August 1941. Her father, Szmuel (b. 1900) owned an accessories shop while her mother, Bela nee Gorshain (b. 1905 in Kołtyniany), was a seamstress. Dwora had an older brother, Szlomo (b. 1937). The Winokurs lived in Widze until the outbreak of the German-Soviet War in 1941. Yiddish was the language spoken at home.

Shortly after Germans entered the Vilnius region, the Winokurs were moved to the Vilnius ghetto. After that, they kept escaping from one ghetto to another. They passed through the ghetto in Święciany.

In the Winter of 1943, the family was shipped to Ponary. After train carriages were unloaded, they, as many other Jews there, were to be divided into groups and executed. Knowing what will happen next, Bela initiated an escape. The father took six-year Szlomo in his hands, Bela grabbed Dwora, who was one year and a half then. German guards started to shoot at them. Szmuel and the son were killed. Bela, with Dwora in her hands, tripped and fell down. Thinking they were all dead, Germans stopped shooting. Bela was lying on the ground for a few hours, covering the child with her  body. At dusk, she went into hiding in the nearby forest. Starving, exhausted and desperate, she tried to kill herself but she wanted to try to save the child. She went to a woman whom she had known before the war. However, Anna Trapsz, an owner of a big farm, refused to take the child.

Bela returned to the farmhouse of the Trapszs and left the child in the garden near the house. From behind the bushes, she was waiting, wondering what would happen next. When Anna Trapsz heard the child crying, she opened the door and took the child inside.

The Trapszs looked after the girl with great care. They had no children and grew attached to Dwora. They called her Danusia. Anna Trapsz spread the word that she had found a homeless child. The Vilnius region was home to many nationalities, Lithuanians, Poles, Belarusians and Jews. The lost child could be any of these. Danusia was fair-haired so no one suspected that she could have Jewish origins. Anna Trapsz, being Catholic, wanted to baptise Danusia but the local priest, aware of the true origin of the girl, advised her not to in case the Jewish family came for the girl after the war.

In the Spring of 1944, when a war front was in the Vilnius region, Vilnius citizens were herded in a church.  Anna Trapsz’s husband was shot dead while trying to escape.

 

Bela kept wondering in the woods. She knocked at the door of a small hut at the edge of a forest. A pregnant women, living only with her son, let her in and allocated her in the attic. It was Lola Matejko, a widow, struggling to live in very hard conditions.

Shortly afterwards, Bela, who was anxious about Dwora’s wellbeing, persuaded Lola to go to the Trapszs to check on the child. Lola did so and told Bela that her daughter was being looked after well.

Both women had to make a living somehow. Lola began to take trimming orders from women living nearby. Bela was observing the clients through crevices in the ceiling and did the sewing.

After the war front moved on, Bela went to the Trapsz’s farmhouse to collect the daughter. Dwora did not recognise her mother, thinking that Anna Trapsz was her mother. She was reluctant to recognise Bela as her mother: “You are Jewish, I already have my mum”. She did not want to go with her biological mom. The attitude of Anna Trapsz made the situation even worse as Anna thought that the girl should stay with her. When both women finally agreed on a date of the departure, Danusia would flee. This happened several times throughout the year.

Bela and Dwora left in the end. They first settled in Białystok, and later in Łódź, where Dwora accomplished ten degrees at the Perec Jewish School. In 1950, Bela married Hersz (Grzegorz) Kantorowicz, who had lost his wife and three children during the war. In 1951, Dwora gave birth to the girl, whom they named Marysia.

In 1957, Bela and her daughters let for Israel. Her husband, who stayed in Poland and was to join her in Israel later, never arrived there. In the early 1960s, Bela married again and assumed the surname of Shechter. She worked as a seamstress. At the age of eighty-six, she passes away. Bela continued to write letters to Anna Trapsz until the end of her life.

Dwora passed her final exam in Israel, and, after that, finished a nurse school. Afterwards, she obtained her BA degree in education and psychology at the Bar-Ilan University. In 1961, Dwora married Meir Rozecwaig, a former Auschwitz prisoner, born in Radom in 1930. Dwora has worked as a nurse all her life. She was a matron at the surgery ward. She has recently worked in an outpatient clinic. The Rozecwaigs have three children and six  grandchildren.

Dwora applied for the Medals of the Righteous of the Nations for Lola Matejko and Anna Trapsz.  Lola Matejko was posthumously awarded in 2012.

The account was edited by Jadwiga Rytlowa and Janina Goldhar, basing on Dwora Rozecwaig’s account given in Israel on 6 April, 2013.  

English translation: Wanda Jóźwikowska