Maria Kosowicz-Bartnik, born in 1939
For safety reasons, I was not taught the Jewish language
I was born in Połaniec (Tarnobrzeg province) into a Jewish family. My parents, Chaja and Lejbuś Zylberg (it seems to me that Mama’s maiden name was also Zylberg), lived in Połaniec in the Market Square. They ran a textile store in their own home. They often traveled to Łódź, where they resupplied their merchandise at the home of my mother’s sister, who ran a textile factory together with her husband. In fact, I was born in Łódź because Mama thought that childbirth in the big city would be safer.
From the beginning of the occupation, my parents hid in a bunker in the nearby woods with Grandmother and me, as well as with my aunt, uncle, and their two sons who came from Łódź. My dear grandpa was the first to perish, shot in front of his own home. Not far from the bunker was a small house whose inhabitants, I surmise, used to bring us food. They are no longer alive. From the account of my adopted mother, I know that my mama, papa, and auntie used to leave the shelter in the evening to go to Połaniec for additional food supplies and certain things to wear (particularly underwear). I was the youngest one in the shelter and cried frequently. My parents were forever afraid that my crying would betray our hiding place. Probably for the sake of safety, I was not taught to speak Yiddish.
In June 1941, my parents placed me under the care of a married couple, Józefa and Jan Kosowicz, now my adopted parents. Shortly thereafter, Mama and Papa perished together with the other members of our family who were hiding in the bunker. From then on, I remained permanently in the home of the Kosowiczes. My husband and I visit the place where the shelter was probably located, and we light a flame there.
The Kosowiczes had four children, and they looked after me at the risk of their lives. They kept hiding me with their friends and relatives in various places, because it was necessary to frequently change where I was staying. I remember, as though through a fog, that I was being transported by a ferry across the Vistula to Mielec in a sack under the seat of a horse-drawn carriage, admonished to sit quietly. I stayed the longest with Weronika Warchowska, the sister of my adopted mama, in the village of Starościce near Lublin. “Auntie” Weronika did not know about my origins for a long time. I was introduced there as the child of the Kosowiczes. Nor did other relatives, friends, and neighbors suspect that I was a Jewish child. In 1950, I was formally adopted by Józefa and Jan Kosowicz. In 1953,
I completed the elementary school in Połaniec and, subsequently, the General Education Lyceum in Staszów.
After passing matriculation, I was admitted to the Physician’s Department of the Academy of Medicine in Kraków. I received the diploma of doctor of medicine in June 1964. Beginning in November of that year, I started work in the hospital in Tarnów, first as a resident and next as assistant in the Department of Infectious Diseases. In 1970, I achieved the first level and in 1974 the second level of specialization in the area of infectious diseases. I continue to work in a hospital (in 1975, my department was transferred to Dąbrowa Tarnowska). In 1968, I married. I have no children. My only souvenir is a miraculously recovered photograph of my parents.
Tarnów, September 8, 1992