Sara Grynberg (Sara Gliksman)

Chana and Shepsel Grynberg had two children, Icchak and Sara. Chana’s sister, Shoshana Rafałowicz, and her husband  Pinchas were children and loved Grynbergs’ kids as their own.

Before the World War II both couples owned mercer’s shops in Sokołów Podlaski which they ran together. Their frequent clients were Józef and Lucyna Fink. Józef was director of a primary school in nearby Czekanów. In time they all became good friends.

In the fall of 1940 the Nazis established ghetto in Sokołów. They brought Jews from Kalisz into it, since the latter town had been included into the Third Reich and no ghetto  was organized there. Because of overcrowding, the Grynbergs gave their apartment to some Jews from Kalisz and moved in with the Rafałowicz family.

Chana’s and Shoshana’s parents, the Goldfarbs, also found themselves in the ghetto, as well as the parents of Shepsel, the Grynbergs, and their 8 grown-up children, that is all siblings of Shesel and Chana’s brother, Shmuel Goldfarb.                                 

The Sokołów ghetto was not tightly closed. There were guards and barriers but those obstacles could be easily circumvented. Farmers from the surrounding area came to the gate, bringing food and trading with the Jews. The Grynbergs lived off selling the remaining fabrics from their shops.

In the summer of 1942, when the ghetto in Siedlce was undergoing liquidation, and it was expected that the  one in Sokołów would soon share the same fate,  Józef Fink borrowed a horse-cart and got within the closed off area.

He probably offered to take away all six of them, but finally left with 12-year-old Sara Grynberg. However, the girl missed her family so much that Józef soon brought her back to the ghetto. Later on the four members of the Grynberg family and Shoshana and Pinchas Rafałowicz, as well as a group of other Jews (“maybe 40, maybe 70 of them”) were taken to the nearby Bartków farm (“or maybe it was called Szczeglacin, I can’t remember”) to dig up potatoes. After the job was done, the Jewish workers had to leave the farm. Since the news of the liquidation of the Sokołów ghetto reached Bartków, they could not return there. The Grynbergs then decided to go to the Finks in Czekanów, and the latter agreed to give shelter to all six of them.

The male escapees from the ghetto and the director of the school (who lived on the school premises) dug out a kind of bunker in the shed belonging to the Finks, and covered it with wooden logs. The camouflaged entrance to the shelter was also in the shed. The bunker could barely hold six people. According to Sara’s memory, it could have been ca 1.8-2 m long, 1.2-1.5 m wide, and 1.5 m high. One could not stand up straight in it. The bottom was covered with straw. For lack of space they had to sleep head to foot.

The six Jews spent in the bunker nearly two years, from October 1942 till July 1944, including two exceptionally severe winters. The shed was situated next to the school building and courtyard. There was a danger that students might discover the hiding place. The hidden came out only after the classes were over. However, they never dared leave the shed, sometimes slept in it without getting down to the bunker.

The Finks supplied them not only with food, but also with books and clandestine publications. They belonged to the Home Army. Their children, Marysia (b. 1929) and Wacek (b. 1925 or 1926) were also involved in the underground activity.

Being exceptionally industrious themselves they also tried to prevent those in their care from just sitting idly. They gave women some darning and sawing and found little jobs for men. People in hiding had no means to support themselves, they were completely dependent on their hosts, but it was never hinted that they were a burden.

The hardest time came when the military front was approaching. German army took over the school and Finks’ apartment and put their horses in the shed. The inhabitants were evicted. Bringing food to the bunker became virtually impossible. It was only 3-4 times during 6 days that Mrs. Fink, pretending to feed the chickens, managed to throw in a bottle of water and a piece of bread through a tiny hole opening into the yard. She also put in (and this was stressed by Sara) a note with information about military activities. In the closed bunker there was not enough air to breathe.

After 6 days the Germans fled, practically without fighting, and the Soviet army walked in.

The Finks were afraid to reveal that they had given shelter to Jews, because they heard that some people who came out of hiding were robbed or even murdered. Both rescued and rescuers were in danger. The survivors left the shed two at a time on a few consecutive nights.

They went back to Sokołów. It turned out that the apartment belonging to the Grynbergs was already occupied, but that of the grandparents’ was still empty. Initially, all six moved in there. Only then they became aware of the fate of the rest of their family, neighbors, the whole Jewish community. Apart from them, very few Jews returned to Sokołów. Alone, overwhelmed by loss of relatives and environment, they did not feel safe.

As soon as the rest of the country became liberated, they moved to Łódź. Sara diligently tried to fiill up the education gap. Encouraged by her father she took her finals as an extern student, as soon as 1949. In 1950 the six survivors emigrated to Israel.

The three couples: Grynbergs, Finks and Rafałowicz had been good friends even before the war. The dramatic war experience deepened that friendship. Especially the two daughters, Maria Fink and Sara Grynberg became very close. As long as the Grynbergs had been living in Łódź, before their emigration to Israel, the families met quite frequently. Wacek Fink, who attended military medical school in Łódź, spent all his free time at Grynbergs’ place. Afterwards, the correspondence Poland-Israel lasted till the death of the older generation. In the 1980s Sara and her husband came to Poland. Together with Józef Fink, already a widower and living in Legionów, and his daughter Maria they visited Sokołów, Czekanów and Treblinka.

In 2001, the next generation started making friends. Sara’s eldest granddaughter came to Poland on a school trip. Marysia met the Israeli youth and told them about the interwoven lives of the Grynberg and Fink families. This encounter also included Sara’s daughter Lea, Maria’s daughter Magda, and Magda’s daughter Ula. And so the friendship continues in the fourth generation.

The following persons perished in the Sokołów Podlaski ghetto:

- Parents of Shepsel Grynberg (Sara’s grandparents on her father’s side): Fryda Grynberg and her husband (Sara doesn’t remember his first name), and their 8 children

- Parents of Chana Grynberg (Sara’s grandparents on her mother’s side): Izrael and Cyrla Goldfarb, and their son Samuel Goldfarb.

Translation: Monika Kulińska