Kazimierz Bielawski recounts the fate of the Chajt (or Hajt) family
Kazimierz Bielawski was born on September 9th, 1931, in Małyńsk, to Helena (b. February 18th, 1901, d. 1995) and Leonard (b. February 6th, 1903, d. 1965) Bielawski. The Bielawski family moved to Małyńsk, a small village in Volhynia, located between Kostopol and Sarny, in the 1930s. Kazimierz’s father, Leonard, found employment in a construction company there. Initially, the Bielawskis were living in two rooms rented from Mr. and Mrs. Wołoszyn. Later on they could afford to buy half of a house, which was “... wooden; [with a] ... long, sculpted porch. ... Something like a small mansion, a bit like a duplex. That’s where the war found us,” Kazimierz Bielawski recounted in the interview for the Museum of History of Polish Jews in 2008.
Before the war the Bielawskis maintained good neighborly relations with a Jewish family, the Chajts (or Hajts; although in his account Mr. Bielawski uses the spelling “Chajt”), living opposite the Bielawskis, in the middle of the village. Mr. Chajt (b. ca. 1903) was a locally known tailor; his wife looked after the house and their three children: Ajdzik (b. ca. 1925), Salomea (“Salcia,” b. ca. 1931) and the youngest daughter, whose name Kazimierz cannot recall (born ca. 1933). Salomea and Kazimierz were classmates. She can be seen in their 3rd grade photograph, dated 1940.
In June 1941 German forces entered Volhynia. Małyńsk Jews were taken to the Zbereźno ghetto, twenty kilometers from the village. Bielawski writes: “persuaded by my parents (father was with the partisans at the time) [the Chajts] temporarily hid in the woods, in a dugout they built. Only it turned out that in this case ‘temporary’ was for three years.” The hideout was prepared “on the left hand side of Małyńsk … there were marshes there, some sandy bogs.”
Bielawski writes “Chajt would often come asking for help, always late in the evening or at night …. Usually, when it was about the medicine, then on the next day I’d pasture the cow in the afternoon, at a time we agreed on before. The meadow was right next to the woods, there was a wide ditch, and I’d throw him a linen bag. Mom’d give me the bag, with rusks, a piece of lard, saccharine, matches, some grey soap, sometimes a loaf of bread … There were also times when Hajt wouldn’t show up for two moths at a time. Because of his profession, as a tailor, he was often hired by farmers in exchange for lodging and upkeep.”
“Late in the autumn of 1943, when the marshes froze, but there was no snow,” Chajt and his family was hiding at the house of a farmers near the Polany village (four kilometers from Małyńsk) and worked for them. “It was a young couple, a Ukrainian and a Polish girl. They had an infant baby and two boys, aged four and five. … In the evening, seven men came to them, two Ukrainians they knew, and the rest were strangers. … They wanted vodka - booze. After they drank, one of them told the host to kill his wife, because she was Polish. The man opposed it ... One of the bandits, drunk, fired a machine gun burst.” According to Kazimierz Bielawski’s account, the group killed the two hosts, the infant, and Chajt’s wife and set fire to the house (the farmers’ older children saved themselves by hiding in the bread oven).
The tailor and his children survived. Each of his daughters was wounded in the leg. Chajt carried them out of the burning house and took them to the hideout on his back. “He had to walk for some 3 or 4 kilometers, in a straight line, through these tracks, to get to that hideout ... he came to us at night, looking for help, asking for something to dress the wounds. He was in a real hurry. He got some warm clothes, because everything they had was burned, and some food.” Ajdzik also managed to escape - at the time of the attack he was tending to the cows and horses in the cowshed. He made his way to the hideout two days later.
“At the turn of 1943 and 1944 the frontlines came through Volhynia, moving towards the Bug river, and Chajt and his children returned to Małyńsk. He moved in to his old house, but they could only use one room, because the others were taken. The girls were already walking fine, without the limps,” Kazimierz recalls.
“In February 1944 my father, Leonard, came back from the guerilla squad and asked Chajt to make him a winter jacket. We’ve had (and I still do) a Singer sewing machine. For a couple of evenings Chajt was making the jacket at our house and told us in detail about the events of 1943 when his wife and the farmer couple died.”
On April 5th, 1944 Chajt and Ajdzik, accompanied by a Polish farmer, Witkowski, took a cart to a Ukrainian acquaintance, whose clothes were made by the tailor, to pick up the payment for the job. When they did not return after two days, the people of Małyńsk sent some of the former partisans to search for the missing men. All three were found brutally murdered.
After the tragedy “My mom looked after Chajt’s girls for several days,” Kazimierz Bielawski recalls. After some two weeks the girls (and with them Sewek Dobroszklanka, Bielawski’s school friend, who survived the war in hiding - although Mr. Bielawski does not know where) were taken by a Jewish organization to an orphanage in Równe, and some time later left Poland. Neither they nor Sewek Dobroszklanka, who also had left the country, contacted the Bielawskis again.
In May 1945 the Bielawskis left Volhynia under a repatriation operation. They went on to live in Zielona Góra, Warsaw, and Ostróda, among other places.
Kazimierz Bielawski possesses no documents corroborating his story. We believe that through publishing it we may be able to reach other witnesses of theses events, willing to testify to that end.