Elżbieta Fiszhaut (Stanisława Matusik), Elżbieta Górska, Elisabeth Gorski i jej matka Helena Fiszhaut (Józefa Kalińska) - the Survivors

Elżbieta Fiszhaut (Stanisława Matusik), Elżbieta Górska, Elisabeth Gorski i jej matka Helena Fiszhaut (Józefa Kalińska) - the Survivors

When war broke out on 1st September 1939, Elżbieta Fiszhaut was 12 years old. She lived in Warsaw with her parents and older brother Piotr. Her father, Jerzy (born in Warsaw in 1891), was a sales representative in Poland for the French firm Michelin. Her mother, Helena (nee Markson, born in Warsaw in 1896), a chemistry graduate from the University of Charków, did not work.

On 6th September 1939, Jerzy and 14 year old Piotr left for the east, arriving in Vilna. They attempted to return but were cheated by the guide and were forced to return to Vilna. There, in 1941, they were ambushed by the German-Soviet war. They ended up in the Vilna ghetto. Helena and Elżbieta never saw them again. After the War, they found out that they were most probably transported to the camp in Stutthof, where they would have perished.

In October 1940, Ela and her mother were forced to move into the Warsaw ghetto. Despite official bans, classes were still being taught within the ghetto. Classes were conducted in so-called sets – in small groups within private apartments. Ela studied at a friend’s home. Of the six pupils in that set, only Ela and one other survived the War.

In the summer of 1942, Ela saw how Janusz Korczak led the children from his orphanage to the Umschlagplatz.

Her mother’s sister, Maria (nee Markson) Jelenkiewicz, died in the ghetto. She as a doctor and died from typhus which she had contracted from a patient. Ela’s grandmother, Rebeka Markson, died in dramatic circumstances.

In August 1942, Helena obtained false documents for herself and her daughter. Ela became Stanisława Matusik and Helena became Józefa Kalińska. They managed to escape from the ghetto and headed to Bielany (a suburb of Warsaw), to the home of Aldona Lipszyc, Helena’s friend from high school. Aldona took them in. After a few weeks, Ela was placed into a convent orphange in Częstochowa. Helena remained with Aldona until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.

Ela had been in Częstochowa for about a year, when her mother received news that the person in Częstochowa, who had been looking after Ela and who had placed her into the convent, had been arrested and accused of helping Jews. She was worried that, under torture, the woman (known to Ela only as Jadzia) would reveal details of whom she had helped and where they were. Helena immediately went Częstochowa and brought her daughter back to Aldona’s home. Later, it turned out that Jadzia had been executed without betraying anyone.

Over the following months, Ela remained in Warsaw, repeatedly changing where she lived. In August 1944, when the uprising broke out, Ela was in the city centre. Wanting to be with her mother, she headed for Bielany. At the same time, Helena went to the city centre, looking for her daughter. They failed to find each other.

Ela remained in the Lipszyc home over the first weeks of the Uprising, after which she again set off looking for her mother. Along the way, she was caught and thrown into a truck. The truck driver, an Austrian in the German army, stopped the truck in a forest and told Ela to run away. She was caught a second time and ended up in the camp in Pruszków. There, she met her aunt, Dr Anna Margolis who, pretending to be a nurse, could move freely amongst the prisoners. Her aunt managed to extract Ela from the camp and place her into a crowded apartment in Grodzisk.

At that time, Anna’s daughter, Alina Margolis, was travelling from Pruszków to Żoliborz in order to lead out a group of Jews hiding in the basement of a house in Promyka Street. That group (among them Marek Edelman, later to be Dr Margolis’ son-in-law) was also placed into the apartment in Grodzisk. The apartment was overflowing. Most of the Jews there had aryan papers, some did not. Apart from the danger resulting from so many Jews being in the one place, the sanitation was extremely bad, attracting lice, fleas and bedbugs. However, no one there had anywhere else to go.

Counting on the fact that danger to the orphanage had passed, Ela headed to Częstochowa. After many troubles and adventures, she arrived there after a few days. Within the convent, she waited for the German army to retreat. On foot, she went to Warsaw, but found no family or friends. Her pre-War family home had been requisitioned by the Polish army. So she went to Łódż, to the home of her aunt Margolis. A few weeks later, Helena also arrived there. Following the Uprising, she had been transports to a work camp in Goerlitz.

In 1948, Elżbieta Fiszhaut married Stefan Górski (Sioma Ajzenberg,  born in Warsaw in 1909). In 1968, together with her husband and three children, she immigrated to Australia. She became a widow in 2000 and has two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

For many years, Elisabeth Gorski (almost 90 years old), together with many others of the Rescued, visits schools in the state of Victoria, Australia. Their visits include a presentation about the Holocaust, prepared by the Courage to Care educational program, aimed at younger high school students. The aim of the project is to teach tolerance and acceptance of people and that differing religions or cultures should not be reasons for discrimination.

Elżbieta goes together with her daughter Kay Ronec. Both are co-authors of the presentation. During meetings with the young people, Elżbieta talks about the heroic people, thanks to whom she survived. She recalls Aldona Lipszyc, a priest in Częstochowa, the Austrian soldier in the German army, as well as Jadzia from Częstochowa, murdered by the Gestapo for helping Jews. At the same time, Elżbieta stresses that if there had been more of the Righteous, then more Jews could have been saved. However, the majority of citizens living in German-occupied countries watched indifferently as six million Jews were exterminated merely because they were Jews.

Among those who had saved Elżbieta and her mother, only Aldona Lipszyc was posthumously awarded the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1996. Elżbieta could never manage to establish details of the others who also deserved to be awarded that title.

Prepared Jadwiga Rytlowa, based on Elżbieta Gorska’s story.

Translated into English by Andrew Rajcher.