Searching for Pani M. from Grochów
Along with my family, I want to thank this woman. She risked her life and family to help my parents. I want to find her and her family and express the inexpressible, our deepest, humblest gratitude.
My parent’s lives in Poland before WWII were a mystery to me. Like so many Holocaust survivors, traumatized, bereft, they spoke little of their lives before the war. In 2011, I traveled to Warsaw with my nephew Isaac to begin to unravel the secrets.
Starting at the offices of ŻIH (Jewish Historical Institute) in Warsaw I found the post-war registration cards my parents had filled out. From these paper cards I learned the addresses of their pre-war homes. In the space asking where they survived, my mother wrote the single word, Grochów. After escaping the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, my parents were hidden there by a Polish woman whose name I heard as “Pani Mokska”.
In Warsaw I began to ask about the name “Mokska.“ Most Poles looked at me quizzically. “That is not quite right,” they would say. It is, however, all I had, and I clung to it until I came upon variations: Moskwa, Moskwiak. These choices both expand and confuse the possibility of finding Pani Mokska, but I hope someone reading this will recognize her.
These are the few things I remember from my parent’s stories of the woman who sheltered them:
Pani Mokska had a daughter.
Her daughter was a librarian.
Pani Mokska was divorced from her husband.
She was the principal of a high school.
She was an intelligent, educated woman.
She was a church going religious Catholic.
For a year and a half, until Russian troops came to the eastern bank of the Wisła, she hid my father and mother in the cellar of her half- destroyed villa in Grochów. I don’t know her first name, her daughter’s name or her husband’s name. I question if I even know her proper last name.
Before the War, my father, David Lipstadt, with his parents and two sisters, lived on Targowa Street in Praga, the Warsaw neighborhood touching Grochów to the north. He was nineteen years old when War broke out, blond and good-looking. He was twenty one when he met my mother Bala Parszeczewska in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Bala was twenty when she fled Kalisz with her parents, two older sisters and an older brother. When they reached Warsaw they were forced into the Ghetto. Bala’s father, Aron Ber, had been a jeweler in Kalisz and her mother Ajdel took care of the family.
David’s father, Hersz, was also a jeweler. He sent David to Bala’s father to fetch or carry something. I know none of the details of the exchange but one. David and lovely green eyed Bala met. Very soon they fell in love. They were married in the Ghetto.
Bala’s older sister, Mala Parszeczewska Glicksman, was the heroine of my parent’s survival story. She found a way to smuggle our remaining family out of the Ghetto, and to find hiding places for them on the Aryan side. I believe Mala was the person who made contact with Pani Mokska and brought my parents to her villa in Grochów. I believe Mala brought food to Bala and David in hiding — there was a vague story about her hiding a red cabbage under her coat.
These are the fragments I hold. I send them out with the deep hope that someone will remember Pani Mokska and what she risked.
May this remembering lead to an honoring of Pani Mokska’s bravery and to renewed connection between our families.