My Jewish parents, my Polish parents
I survived because my parents knew how to part with me
I was born in 1939 in Warsaw, in the Vita clinic, on Żelazna street, which belonged to my family. I do not know the exact date — the 15th or 17th of January or February. Mother, Leontyna Temerson nee Zaks, was a teacher of Polish, father, Stanisław Temerson — a medical general practicioner. Until 1942 I stayed with my parents in the Warsaw ghetto. Conditions with each day were becoming more difficult. My parents, aware that they cannot ensure my safety, decided to hand me over to the care of my aunt Antonina (mother’s sister). At the beginning of 1942 my nanny took me out of the ghetto and journeyed with me to Katowice, with lice and frostbitten hands. My aunt lived there with her husband and her small son, and she had the so called “strong papers”. However her husband, a Pole with German roots, did not sign the Volkslist, so she considered that the appearance of a strange child would be an additional threat to the security of her family. That is why she passed me over to her childless friends — Czesława and Jan Otrębski.
My parents concealed from me that I am a foster daughter. They never learnt that I learned their secret
My new parents at once moved with me to Łódź, and then to Skarżysko-Kamienna, where they had many friends. We lived there in a small house at the outskirts of town, nearly till the end of the war. I spent most of the time with Mom, for father worked outside the city, and later was in hiding because of conspiratorial activities. Mother was a cheerful and merry person at that time, she played with me, read me books, sang songs. In spite of the war she did her best to create a happy home. I remember that for a couple of months my parents did not eat sugar, in order to buy me my dream teddy bear. We welcomed the end of the war in Łódź, where the family of my Polish mother lived. There a meeting took place which inluenced my whole life. A distant relative appeared, Róża W., who reclaimed me in the name of my father’s, Stanisław Temerson’s sister, who lived in Brussels. My Otrębski parents loved me as their own child. They managed to persuade aunt Ruża not to separate me from them. In Łódź I had a real home, lots of aunts and uncles — even if they were not my real family. I was surrounded by my parents’ love and care. When I fell ill with putrid fever, my mother used to sit during all day by my bedside, she read to me and held me by the hand. Father used to take me for walks, took me on sled rides, personally built a doll house for me. The war experiences resulted in my mother showing symptoms of manic-depressive psychosis. Perhaps for that reason my parents were very anxious about my health which they considered to be delicate, and my mental condition to be fragile. They did not want me to undergo a shock, and therefore did not tell me that I was not their own child. Their family and friends knew the truth, but they never gave the game away. My parents maintained contacts with my Jewish relatives since 1946 and they even encouraged me to write to them. And I, not suspecting anything, just imagined them to be another set of my parent’s good friends. I learned the truth during my second visit to my aunt in Brussels. I was then 26 years old. I honoured my parent’s wish — they never learned that I discovered their secret. They, as well as I, hid the truth — out of love.
Małgorzata Otrębska
She graduated in Arabian philology at the Warsaw University. She worked as a tourist guide, translator from Czech(sworn translator) and as a proof reader in various editorial offices. She is an avid sailor. She belongs to the association of the Association of “Children of the Holocaust” in Poland. She has a son and two grandchildren.
Czesława Otrębska
née Zielińska
She finished the conservatory in the piano class. She was a woman of profound knowledge and had many interests; she translated from Spanish and Czech. As a mother she was warm and tender, all my successes made her happy.
Leontyna Temerson
née Zaks
(1909 –1943?)
Before marriage she worked as a teacher of Polish, then she helped her husband in the medical consulting room. She was a lovely woman, full of grace. I know her face only from photographs.
Jan Marek
He finished the Hochschule fur Welthandel in Vienna, with sea transport for specialisation. Before the war he worked as a Gdynia-America Lines. But above all he was my beloved, splendid dad. The best I could ever wish for.
As a secondary school student he joined the army and took part in the 1920 campaign. He directed the medical clinic “First Aid” till 1939. In the Warsaw ghetto he worked a doctor in various clinics.