“Well-Furnished Under the Dome”

The first time I went to the house on ul. Rydla in Bielany was in the winter of 2012. I was a new employee at the Museum and Karolina had sent me to help Jadwiga edit her articles which we published on “The Righteous”.

They were about the Topiński family of Żoliborz and the Wołk family of Podlasie. These were just two of the many stories of Poles helping Jews during the Holocaust, which Jadwiga, as a volunteer, worked on for our “The Polish Righteous – Restoring Forgotten Memory” project. The subject matter of saving Jews was particularly close to her due to her own Polish-Jewish family. She, herself, was both a Rescuer and a Survivor.

Each of her wartime articles she began, as she said herself, “from the dinosaurs”, going back two or three generations to the 19th century. In order to understand the events during the period of occupation, the reader needed to be taken through the important events in the lives of the members of the family about which the article was written. Each article involved a minor battle. I would shorten and edit them. Jadwiga noticed every change and would often stand her ground. Every detail was important to her and was a subject for discussion.

That first visit to ul. Rydla was not easy. Jadwiga, in a supposed casual manner, tested my historical knowledge and, in a manner very typical of her, responded with an irony and not always appropriately. She offered me pate and borscht and I left with the feeling that she had not taken a liking to me. It turned out later that it was completely the opposite. 

Each subsequent conversation - either at ul. Rydla, at the Museum, via email or on the telephone – brought us closer together. During Jadwiga’s annual visits to Israel, with her close friend Janina Goldhar, we would correspond intensively. I would “equip” her with new addresses of Survivors to which both women would travel and would then write the history. All those Survivors were very important to both women – they remained in constant contact with all of them. It was through them that we would be advised when any of them had passed away.

Whenever we chatted, Jadwiga would always ask about the girls - Karolina and Joanna. She would inquire about their work, their travels and their love lives. I became the intermediary messenger, conveying mutual  greetings. 

During her final months, when I would ask how she was feeling, she complained about her heart and her state of mind. However, at the same time, she presented me with her next social and travel plans - “with young people, the youngest being 85”. She said that the most important thing was to be “well-furnished under the dome”. Her dome was well-finished until the very end.

Our last meeting was coincidental. On 21st November, she came to the opening of the film festival at the Museum. It was cold and windy, with a long queue waiting at the entrance. I took her by the arm and led her to the side-door “so that you won’t have to stand in the queue”. ”Hmph, I wouldn’t have stood in the queue anyway”, she replied.

She passed away eight days later.

It is a pity that all of us could not have met together one last time. Instead, we meet here on the pages of your “Stories”. This is an important part of our website, dedicated to Survivors, which you Jadwiga created the vast majority.