My adoptive mother never told me the truth. All her life, she maintained that I am her own child
I stayed, off and on, in Baudouin’s orphanage from July 1942 to January 1945. One of my guardians was Katarzyna Janecka. In autumn of 1943, when the Germans started to search orphanages, my guardian took me out. In December I came back to Baudouin’s house. After a year, when the war was ending, Katarzyna Janecka together with Jadwiga Barych once again took me from there.
In spring of 1945 Katarzyna took me to her family in Krośniewice near Kutno. From that moment I was her daughter. On the way from Warsaw I was given a hunk of bread thickly covered with butter, which was then very rare. I wanted to leave it for dessert, and when it melted in my little hands, I fell into despair.
We lived in Krośniewice till liberation. When mother’s sister, Gienia, returned from the Ravensbrück camp, we went together to Bielawa in Lower Silesia, which became, after the war, the largest agglomeration of Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust.
I went to a Jewish kindergarten, in the yard I played with children of different faiths. We celebrated holidays together — we started off with Hannukah, then it was Christian Christmas, and we ended by celebrating in the homes of our Orthodox friends.
Children communicated in their own languages, mixing words in Polish, Jewish, French, and, after 1948, also Greek.
Mother was cool in her relations with me — she did not cuddle me nor kiss me, I do not remember her ever taking me on her knees. She conducted herself in a like manner later with my own children. I had much better relationships with my aunt Gienia. For mother the most important were: her work — she was a physiotherapist in a health center, the church — to which she went twice a day, and caring for the household. She was always modestly dressed, in long dresses with long sleeves.
When I asked about my father, she said that he had died in Gross-Rosen just before the camp’s liberation. I think she invented my father’s figure so that she would not have to tell me the truth about my origins. She never married. She sacrificed her whole life to me.