Lily Fuchsberg’s report on her foster parents, Grzegorczyks

Lily Fuchsberg's report on her foster parents: Helena and Władysław Grzegorczyk

Helena Olga Grzegorczyk, born 9th December 1918 died March 23rd 1985
Władysław Grzegorczyk, born 25th December 1905 and died June 7th 1981

I ought to write a book about my parents’ heroism. In this brief sketch I will try to describe their deep humanism which manifested not only during WW II but throughout their whole life.

I found out I was a Jew when I turned six. A (female) neighbor shouted to my mother: “you’re bringing up a Jewish child and it was the Jews who killed Jesus Christ”. My mum then said that this bigot would end up in hell and when “dad comes back from work they will explain everything to me”.

First dad told me that he had chosen me because I was beautiful and when it came to the Jews he said that all his best friends were Jewish and Jesus was also a Jew. And then he started telling me about the war.

When the occupation of Borysław begun, the Germans organized a ghetto and passed a law requiring people to denounce Jews. My father then stated firmly that no German would force him to accept such a travesty of Justice. And together with my mum they hid their neighbor Mrs Paulina Silberg and her 2 year old daughter.

My mum was from Drohobycz and her favorite teacher at school was Bruno Schulz. Later, I often heard her saying “What a pity that I couldn’t save him”. The attic at my parents’ house was quite small and there was a constant flow of new people moving in to hide there. My dad even managed to get Paulina’s sister-in-law out of the ghetto because Paulina’s husband, Ignac, cried that Lola, his sister, would die there.

I was taken by my foster parents when I was only a few weeks old, because my real parents decided to join the Resistance. I was baptized and registered as their own child. Then, my 11 year old sister, Minka, was brought by my older brother Alex to the hiding place because he wanted to join the Resistance as well. He was only 13 year old and he never came back. My real parents were denounced and killed.

I clearly remember the day when my father told me all about it. Being just a six year old girl, I didn’t fully understand the tragic fate of my family. As I was an only child, the prospect of having a sister who I would meet one day made me happy.

I didn’t remember my sister because during the war she was in the hiding place and just after the war she left for Israel. At the age of 14 she traveled across a Europe ruined by war, only to find new wars awaiting her when she finally got to Israel. Ever since then she has lived in Gan Shemuel kibbutz and she currently has four daughters and ten grandchildren.

It was getting dark and my father continued the story: “when the attic became too crowded, a new hiding place was created in Silberg’s attic. The wealthy Blum family hid there and there was money to save the poor.

Money helped in getting food, but the threat of denunciation was great. If they had been denounced not only the Jews would have been killed but my parents would have been executed too. When I grew older I often asked my mum “How come you hid so many people and you weren’t denounced?” Mum used to smile and say that dad was well known for the fact that if somebody really annoyed him he would give them a beating they wouldn’t forget. But sometimes this was not enough.

When I was a year old, someone informed the authorities that I was a Jewish child. Luckily, at that time a German officer was living in our house and he often played with me. When the Police came, they saw me sitting on the German officer’s lap and that saved us. Another time he had to threaten a garrulous neighbor that if something happened to me she could be sure that her children would pay for it.

During those three years when my parents hid 18 people in their attic, there were many dangerous situations, incidents and difficulties which I was told about by the rescued friends of my parents “your dad used to steal oil and once even a cow just to feed us”.

I was officially adopted when I was seven years old, but my mum and dad always reminded me about my real parents and my brother. Every year on the Day of the Dead we lit a candle for my parents and brother in the cemetery.

Being awarded the Righteous among the Nations Medal and planting a tree in Yad Vashem was a memorable experience for my parents. Most of the people they saved settled in Israel, so my parents were welcomed and treated in Israel with love and honors. But the most beautiful memories they had were from the kibbutz where my sister lives with her husband. My parents spent their holiday there a few times. My sister’s daughters were loving granddaughters to them.

My happiest memories of my parents, except those from childhood, are of their visits to Paris where I have lived since 1969. When I gave birth to my daughter, my mum was the first person to bathe her and when my father saw the baby he said “look how she takes after me”. Some years later, he taught my son David Polish songs and dances. My children adored their Polish grandparents. Today they proudly show their grandparents’ Yad Vashem Medal, which is their most precious inheritance.