The Story of My Uncle Zbysław Raczkiewicz

The following is a reconstruction of events, as confirmed by my uncle Zbysław Raczkiewicz, who participated in helping hidden Polish Jewsktóry:

It is 1942 and winter is closing in. Forty two Jews are hiding in the Haliczany Forest, between the villages of Kolonia Pobołowice andWołosów in the Chełm Lubelski District. They are digging underground shelters in order to survive the winter. My grandfather, Wojciech Raczkiewicz (a lieutenant in the army), helps in the construction and camouflaging of those shelters.

Mt grandfather took part in World War I. He joined the army in November 1918, with the rebirth of an independent Poland. He fought in the Polish-Bolshevik War so he well knew how to construct trenches, shelters and bunkers.

The hiding place for the Jews consisted of three separate rooms connected by a corridor. Each had a camouflaged entrance. Above was a thick forest and a boggy area. Arming the Jews with a dozen or so rifles and grenades increased their level of safety. The proximity of the Krzywólka River ensured access to water and served their sanitary needs.

According to my grandfather and my uncle Zbysław, amongst those hiding there were the Szajn brothers, Gliksman, Rozen, Gilwards, Wolf Sztainwurcel,  Cukier, Cukier Bajł, S. Sonnberg as well as the Kamień mill owner, S. Bitman. Before the War, they all lived in nearby Żmudź, Wołkowiany and Kamień.

Those in hiding needed food, clothing, medicines and hygiene supplies, which the whole Raczkiewicz family endeavoured to provide them with. Albina, Wojciech's wife, baked most of the bread and prepared the vegetables. His sister, Daniela Wysocka (nee Raczkiewicz), as a Home Army medical orderly, obtained medicines and dressings which were handed over to the Jews when needed. In the beginning, parcels were passed over to the Jews by night (they would come, tap on the window and would receive the food). However later, because of the dangers, food was left, after dusk, in a previously agreed spot.

The Jews remained hiding there for twenty two months - until July 1944. Regarding the entry of the Red Army, my grandfather wrote, "On the night of 21st July 1944, fighting began. Artillery flew from both sides. Several shells hit our home. Luckily, some did not explode, others damaged the living room. The next day, the Germans left. We and the Jews left the bunkers - we'd taken refuge there. That meant that we had known the location of those bunkers all along. The Jews would come to us often at night for food. They survived because no one betrayed them. After drinking some moonshine and eating some breakfast, the Jews headed east with the Soviet partisans, and we returned home".

My uncle, Zbysław Raczkiewicz recalls it a little differently. Along with his Home Army comrades, Adam Łukaszczyk and Wicek Śliwiński, he led a group of thirty Jews to the side of the Soviet army. During that risky crossing, they were shot at by the Germans. But, fortunately, the whole group reached units of the Red Army who then took care of them.

It should be noted here that all the help was extended without any self-interest. Of course, it was known how it would end should the bunkers have been discovered and what would await those who were helping. All would have been killed instantly.

The further fate of those Jews in hiding remains unknown.