Mother taught me never to look people straight in the eye. After many years
I learned that people who denounced Jews recognized
by their eyes
I was about a year old when, in 1941, my Polish mother Joanna Siwińska took me from the ghetto. For many years she and Władysław Wielesiuk, whom she called my godfather. raised me together. Then they separated. She was a true mother to me and she loved me like her own son. She worked hard to keep us. We were poor, mother took dry bread to work so that I would have slices with butter. She was a good and wise woman. But I was unable to appreciate that — I ran away from home, I did not want to study. When I was 13 I went to work. I made up my arrears in knowledge when I already had a wife and children.
I was different in appearance from others. I had black hair and eyes, people laughed saying that I am blacker than a raven. Children in the backyard called out at me — Jew! Mother complained to their parents and they stopped teasing me.
I guessed that I was an adopted child, but we never talked about it. When I was a child, I had no interest in it, when I grew up I counted on my mother telling me the truth herself.
Years passed, I was occupied with work, education, my family and the question of my origin receded into the background. I organized my life, but this thought gave me no peace — who am I really? My adoptive father, who together with my mother brought me from the ghetto, was dead. I started questioning my family and my neighbours. I learned only, that I was taken out of the ghetto; my mother did once have documents at home with something written inHebrew, but she burned them in 1968.
At the end of her life mother got Alzheimer’s disease. She did not want to eat, I was afraid that she would starve to death.
I implored her, persuaded, shouted even. Once, when I raised my voice at her, she said: “why do you shout at me like that, why do you hate me so? If not for me, the Germans would long ago have strangled you”.