My Jewish parents, my Polish parents
My parents must have known that they were going to their death, otherwise they would have taken me with them
I was born on the 31st of July 1939 in Warsaw. The first years of my life were spent with my parents in the ghetto. I do not remember their faces, I do not remember anything. Probably in March of 1943 they went to the Umschlagplatz. I think that they did not know how to leave me, they delayed till the last moment, they counted on a miracle. And a miracle did happen. I lived. A “blue policeman” carried me to Wanda Niczowa — my mother’s teacher. She knew me well, for mother visited her, leaving the ghetto through sewer canals. I was in a deplorable state, dirty and ridden with lice. A note giving her Żoliborz address was attached to my clothes. It was the 18th of April 1943. Mrs Niczowa could not keep me, (she was already hiding the daughter of her cousins), but she found me new parents.
I learned that I was Jewish when I was eighteen
I do not remember the ghetto, remember nothing and nobody from that period. My life started on the 2nd of May 1943, in Wilcza street, at my Polish parents — Anastasia and Walerian Sobolewski. I was then nearly four years old. With them I safely lived through the war. I shared the good and bad times with my parents. In the winter of 1943 my father was imprisoned, as a hostage, in Pawiak prison. We went every day with mother to check whether his name appeared on the lists of those shot. Fortunately, after several months he reappeared at home. After the war father, as an “economic saboteur”, spent six years in a Stalinist prison. My mother, a Russian whose Polish was poor, had to work hard physically in spite of a sick heart and hypertension in order to keep us. She died in 1958 at 59. My father’s continuing absence created a distance between us. He was an older man, and I was a teenager, with funny ideas in my head. After mother’s death our relations grew even more difficult. One day, in anger, my father told me that I was not their daughter. That was a terrible moment for both of us. At first we were silent for a long while, then he told me all he knew about my past. Thus, when I was eighteen, I came to know that I was a Jewish child saved from the ghetto. I experienced a great shock. I felt as if in one moment my world had ceased to exist. All that I knew about myself turned to be untrue. I started searching for vestiges of that “other world”. I found, in Israel and the United Kingdom, relatives who survived the Genocide, I talked to people who knew my relatives, I penetrated archives. For many years now I have been interested in victims of the Holocaust, and in the survivors. That has become most important to me. I was born under a lucky star. I have received much more good than bad in life. On my path from the beginning I have met friendly people. First someone saved my life, then took care of me, then I received everything that a child may receive from parents: love, care, family warmth. I was lucky in every aspect.
Joanna Sobolewska–Pyz
She graduated in Sociology at the Warsaw University. She was also linked with the University by her professional career. She participated in the founding meetings of the Association of “Children of the Holocaust” in Poland. For many years, she was its vice-president, responsible for the educational activity of the association. Since 2012, she is its president. In the Nineties, the Association has cooperated with Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (now called the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation: The Institute for Visual History and Education), and she conducted 140 interviews with people who have survived the Holocaust. She is the author of the idea of the “My Jewish parents, my Polish parents” exhibition. She has one son.
Mother met my father in Petersburg, where he studied. She was 44 when she became my mother, and truly came to love me. When she was dying, she told me: “Don’t count on anybody. You are mine, and a daughter of mine only”. Righteous Among the Nations
Halina Grynszpan
née Zylberbart
Iknow of my mother only that she had a great sense of humour and poor sight.
When in 1943 he decided to save a Jewish child, he was a mature man and realised what could be the consequences. After the war he was accused of economic sabotage and was sentenced to death, changed afterwards to life imprisonment. Righteous Among the Nations
(zm. 1943))