And I prize Him too!
No, I am not Jasiowa1). I am Janowa2).
You know. These young ones do not know anything today.
Jasiowa's cottage was close to ours, but they lived here years ago.
They left the village after the war.
Of course, I remember this. I will not forget it until the end of my life.
The Jews? Some of them have loitered about here.
Just after the Germans liquidated those ghettos.
Some Jews fled into the countryside here and the forest.
The little girl? That was Marysia, the Mateychak family's youngest daughter.
She was three years old. Very talented was she. She became a schoolmistress!
No. I was not involved in hiding anyone at that time.
I think it was in 1943 that someone was around our barn, but only in the nighttime. Several times, I put some eggs and bread there.
But when this Jankiel came and asked me if he could hide there with his family, I chased him away.
He was very rich before the war. He owned the watermill.
I chased him away because my husband did not like the Jews.
And Jankiel even more because he cheated him once for a sack of flour.
Not Jankiel himself, because he had people working for him.
But when my husband complained, Jankiel just laughed at him.
And, of course, because of all these German gendarmes and our policeman.
The gendarmes received the denunciation. They came to Mateychak farm and found three Jews hiding there. They shot the Jews and all the Mateychak family too.
Only Marysia survived because the Mateichaks had to work in the fields, so Mateychak's wife left her at my place.
Kielonki's family farm was also burned down because they kept there a Jewess.
Probably for several months. But at the scarcity time, it was so hard that they asked her to leave. She was so upset that when the gendarmes caught her and took her to the police station, she told them where she was hidden before.
Look what a witch! They kept her as long as they could.
She had to die anyway. Couldn't she keep her mouth shut?!
So I chased Jankiel away. And they went to Mushniak for the second time.
First, after the war, the village got to know that two Jewish families had survived here.
The biggest surprise was that one family was hidden at the Jasiowa's farm.
They were always short for everything, and the kids were running around almost naked. Such misery.
People in the village were very upset about Jasiowa's hiding business.
After all, she put in danger her neighbors and maybe the entire village.
When a year later one of those survivors came with some presents, it became too much for the villagers, and Jasiowa with the family had to move to another place.
No. No one had a grudge against Mushniak.
He used to give a round of beer in the pub and bragged how much he pumped Jankiel for.
Nobody envied it because Mushniak drank all this money away in the pub.
It was said that Jankiel and his family were hiding at Mushniak's place two times.
The first time until Jankiel ran empty of money.
The drunken Mushniak told us that he proposed they could stay if he could "play" with their daughter Rachel. Then they went away. It was probably that time they were in our barn.
Then they returned to Mushniak, and Mushniak's wife was angry because Mushniak could like that arrangement with Rachel very much. A miracle that she did not denounce them. But she was probably afraid that the gendarmes would punish the Mushniak too.
The little Rachel? She was sixteen then.
Mushniak boasted that she did not defend herself too eagerly.
The only trouble occurred when she became pregnant and had a miscarriage.
No. Mushniak did not get any medals.
When the Russians came, Jankiel immediately went to them with a complaint.
But their politruk (political commander), when he got to know what it was all about, he just began to laugh. And asked where the girl was.
So Jankiel vanished as quickly as it was possible.
The politruk went to Mushniak, and when they got drunk, he supposedly praised Mushniak: "You have not just saved the human lives. You have also made from a little girl a grown-up woman. You lucky bastard!"
Such time it was!

  1. Jasiowa - a nickname of the wife of Jasiek (little Jan), used in the Polish countryside
  2. Janowa - a nickname of the wife of Jan, used in the Polish countryside

Alex Wieseltier
May 2019

Alex Wieseltier - Uredte tanker
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