My Jewish parents, my Polish parents
My mother was shot by a German patrol on the Aryan side. She died because she wanted to see me
I was born on the 3rd of March 1940 in Wilno. We lived in the Zwierzyniec district. In the autumn of 1940 the Germans moved us to the ghetto. My father, Samuel Murhakiel and my two older brothers were murdered in one of the mass executions in Ponary. My mother wanted to save me at all costs. She decided to entrust me to the care of a Polish family — our neighbours from Zwierzyniec. She believed she would survive the war and take me from my guardians. I was taken out of the ghetto and I was left in the prearranged spot, in bushes between houses. I was dressed in a white sheepskin coat, I had a note with my name and date of birth and a small bag of sugar. My mother was left in the ghetto alone, without husband or children. She must have missed me a lot, because heedless of the danger she managed to bribe guards and she got to the Aryan side. She was shot there by a German patrol. Strangers carried her body off the street and buried her in a Jewish cemetery. After my mother’s death my guardians decided to rid themselves of the trouble and hand me over to the Germans — they informed the police that they had found a Jewish child on the street. My fate was to be sealed in the forge, where my guardian worked. It was there that I awaited the policeman.
I was saved by Władysław Seroczyński, who later became my adoptive father
When he saw me, he knew that he could not allow me to be taken away, and that regardless of any consequences. He pulled the policeman aside and for a long while explained something in German. Finally the German turned, looked at me... and went away. Thus I became Mary’s and Władysław Seroczyński’s daughter. My adoptive parents did not have children of their own and immediately, in November 1944, they baptised me as their own daughter. For many years this certificate of baptism was the sole document certifying my existence. On it’s basis I was later issued with a birth certificate. Often I wondered whether I was really born on the 3rd of March 1940? I shall never know that — the note written by my real mother had been lost, and the people who knew about my birth have died. After the war my new parents wanted to find themselves in Poland as quickly as possible. They arrived in the country with the first transport. They wanted to cover all tracks providing information that I am an adoptive Jewish child. Repatriates from Wilno were directed to Pomorze, that was where my godfather ended up — my dad’s father’s nephew. With him also travelled the secret of my origins: transmitted from mouth to mouth it finally got to the town in which I lived with my parents. One day two men came to our house and started asking questions about me. Father, very upset, closed himself with them in a room and they talked for a long time. Finally he must have convinced them that I am not a Jew, for they never came again. My parents did not want to be separated from me. They considered me their own child and were full of love for me. They never told me the truth about my origins, though the whole town was aware of the story. Till I was a small child, I never understood the remarks and teasing I was subjected to. When I grew up I started to wonder what was wrong with me. When I asked mother whether I am their child, she always started to cry. I did not want to hurt her, so I decided to stop asking. My parents were both very good people, sensitive to children. Before the war they raised several of mother’s nephews. After that they took me in, and several years later they raised a small boy, who was their distant relative. Father’s death was a great shock, I think I could not have also bourne my mother’s death. Thankfully she was destined for a long life. We lived separately, but I visited her each day. She was grateful for my care, she often repeated that she would have died a long time ago if I had not cared for her. She died in my arms.
Jadwiga Hreniak
She finished a medical college and all her life worked as a midwife. She is a member of the Association of “Children of the Holocaust” in Poland. She has two children and five grandchildren.
Parents
Marianna
Seroczyńska
(1902–1987)
She did not have children of her own, but she was like a mother to several children who needed mothering. It is to her that I owe my becoming a midwife.
Gienia
Murhakiel
(zm. 1941)
Władysław
Seroczyński
(1901–1966)
Before the war he was a professional soldier. Later he worked on the railroad. He saved my life. He offered me a home and love.
Samuel
Murhakiel
(zm. 1941)