Maria Ochlewska, born in 1939
I was saved by good people
I was born in Chełm Lubelski. I remember that my parents were called Binijumin and Perla Horn. My given name was Estera. I do not remember the names of other members of my family, although I know that I had several aunts and cousins. Father met his death at the beginning of the war. Mother found herself in the ghetto in Chełm, together with me. At the end of 1942, during the time of the liquidation of the Jews, she escaped with me from the ghetto to her native region (communities of Kamień and Turka near Chełm), where we hid for quite some time in various villages. At that time, she began to call me Marysia.
At the beginning of the winter of 1943, Mother left me in the village of Pławanice with farmers by the name of Struś. She herself was hiding out with a few other persons of Jewish nationality, in the neighboring forest where, as I learned from the accounts of farmers, all were killed.
The family Struś was a poor family. There were four persons in it: the elderly farm woman Struś (probably Józefa), her son, Mieczysław Struś, and the young married couple, Józefa (Struś) and Antoni Sapuła. Our liv- ing quarters consisted of a single room with a pounded dirt floor instead of a regular floor. In this room was located a kitchen stove with a nook behind the upper part of the stove. This nook was my hiding place. When a stranger entered the room, I climbed up there quickly and sat very quietly. Toward the end of the winter, a shortage of bread developed. Besides,
the farmers began to fear that someone, a stranger, would notice that they were hiding a Jewish child and denounce them. Mrs. Struś confided this to Mrs. Leokadia Wojtkiewicz, whom she had met at the Polish Red Cross in Chełm. Mrs. Wojtkiewicz, wishing to save a Jewish child whom she did not know, took me away from the Struś family. In the spring of 1944, she took me to Warsaw to the family of her sister, Joanna, and Karol Kulesza. They had two children, Leszek and Bożena. I was a little younger than they, and the neighbors considered me an illegitimate child of Mrs. Leokadia Wojtkiewicz, who sometimes came from Chełm, bringing me something to eat. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Kulesza also were in difficult financial condition, but I did not go hungry in their home. I also remember that I was not in hiding and walked about together with Bożenka. We were regarded as cousins, but I, in my inner thoughts, was surprised that nobody knew that I was a Jewish child.
During the Warsaw Uprising, I found myself, together with Mr. Karol Kulesza, Leszek, and Bożenka, at the home of Mr. Kulesza’s family in the Marymont district. Mrs. Kulesza and Mrs. Wojtkiewicz never quite got there. After the uprising, the Germans forced us to leave Warsaw. We stopped in the community of Klaudyn at a country house, where, in one room, more than a dozen people were cooped up. There, I became ill with scarlet fever. For this reason, I was placed in the hospital with the nuns in Laski.
From there, I was taken to a hospital in Pruszków where one of the patients, Mrs. Maria Nowak, widow of Officer Andrzej Nowak, took me under her wing. From Pruszków, with an entire transport of sick people, we were taken to Kraków. Mrs. Nowak hoped that her husband would return after the war and that they would keep me as their daughter. She showed me much kindness, and, during the several months of stay with her in the hospital, I became quite attached to her.
In Kraków, in January 1945, Janina Ochlewska met me, and when she found out that I was an orphan, she decided to adopt me. In the hospital in Kraków, I again encountered Mrs. Leokadia Wojtkiewicz, who also wanted to keep me with her family, but she yielded, being of the opinion that the married couple, Tadeusz and Janina Ochlewski, would take the place of parents for me better than she could.
The rest of my childhood and youth, I spent with my adopted parents in Kraków, where I completed the General Education Lyceum in 1956 and was then admitted to Jagiellonian University, where I finished studies in natural science. In 1962, I earned the degree of masters of biology on the basis of work performed under the direction of Professor Maria Skalińska.
After my studies, I undertook work at the Sugar Beet Growing Institute, and I worked there until 1965. Subsequently, I moved, together with my parents, to Warsaw. Here, I was admitted for doctoral studies in the Main School of Rural Agriculture. I earned the degree of doctor of agricultural science in 1970. Until 1975, I worked in SGGW in the position of adjunct, and subsequently, until 1985, in the Forestry Research Institute. Since 1985, I have been working in the Central Agricultural Library.
Main School of Rural Agriculture – Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego, abbreviated as SGGW.
My adopted parents, Tadeusz and Janina Ochlewski, passed away in 1975. In 1988, I found out about the death of Mrs. Leokadia Wojtkiewicz. Then, I again got in touch with her sister, Joanna Kulesza, her nephew, Leszek, and niece, Bożena. I learned from them that to the end of her life, Mrs. Wojtkiewicz thought of me and tried to collect information about my family. Thanks to her notes, I know that my mother’s family name was Lindenbaum and that her parents were named Mojsze and Estera.