Searching for Jasio

This is an article by Alfred Szajkowski, given to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It is about the help given by his mother, Antonina Szwajkowska (nee Piluś), to a Jewish boy during World War II. The boy, named Jaś, with her help, was placed into an orphanage in Turkowice, where he remained until the end of the War. Alfred is now looking for information about what later happened to this survivor.

My mother, Antonina Szwajkowska (nee Piluś), the daughter of Jan and Katarzyna, was born on 14th February 1908 in Tyszowce (Lubelskie Province). She had one sister and six brothers. The eldest, Józef, was a telegraph operator in the army of General Józef Haller in 1919-1920. Her younger brothers, Stanisław and Franciszek, died fighting the Germans in the Home Army's partisan units in the Zamość region - Franciszek dying in the battle near Szystowice on 20th April 1944 and Stanisław in the Strzelecki forest in unknown circumstances.

Generally, pre-War poverty did not permit for the education of children. In winter, mum had to share her shoes with my siblings, so that only one of them could go to school. Mum didn't finish school. From the age of six, she was raised by her father and stepmother. When she was ten, she was given into service for a richer cousin.

In 1936, she began working at the St. Jadwiga Hospital in Hrubieszów, initially as a kitchen-hand and later becoming a nurse. Her income from this work allowed for a modest life for the large family. Even though mum was not educated, her superiors valued her highly and entrusted her with more and more responsible tasks. She assisted at childbirths and learned obstetrics.

When World War II began, wounded Polish, German and Soviet soldiers were sent to the hospital. The exhausting work had a negative impact on my mother's health. At that time, the majority of her family lived in Tyszowce (Lubelskie Province) which, during the bombing at the beginning of September 1939, suffered immense losses.

At that time, she took in and cared for a 2-3 year old Jewish boy, saved thanks to his own mother. During the bombing, she had shielded him with her own body. Concerned for the boy's safety, my mother gave him over to the orphanage in Turkowice, which was run by nuns. Many Jewish children were hidden there.

In Turkowice, the boy was baptised. Jasio, that was his name, remained there during the entire time of the German occupation. Mum visited him often. The boy always anticipated her visits and enjoyed them. After the War, when the orphanage children received food parcels from UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which supported victims of war), Jaś hid citrus fruit under a pillow so that he could give them to my mum. 

They lost contact in 1946, when mum married my father, a widower, Łukasz Szwajkowski. They then moved to Czartowiec where, until 1956, they worked on a small farm. A year earlier, the orphanage in Turkowice was closed and all the children were transferred to various orphanages.

Our family moved to Turkowice. There, under an eligibility program, we received a farm which my parents ran until 1978. My mother then gave the farm to the State Treasury in return for a retirement pension. In 1985, she moved to the home of her son in Zamość. She died on 19th January 1997.

I know that Jaś, as an adult, looked for my mother through “Świadkowie”, a television program, and also in person in Turkowice. No one there was able to give him any information as to where my mother had moved. Prior to her death, she asked me to find the boy, whom she called my “brother”. I made contact with the nuns from that orphanage during the Jubilee of the school in Turkowice. During our conversation, they confirmed the facts that I have presented here. However, they gave me no information as to where Jaś is now and what is now his name. All I have is the information in this article.


I would like to find him in order to fulfill my mother's dying wish.