Maria Teresa Zielińska, born in 1927
I wasn’t planning to run away
I was born in Warsaw as Dora Borensztajn. My twin brother’s name was Mojżesz. We lived at 79 Żelazna Street, Apartment No. 12. Next door, at Number 81, my parents had a stationery and notions store. My father, Herszek Borensztajn, had been a widower. He had two sons and a daughter, Lonia. After the death of their mother, the sons, Lebek and Mietek, left for Paris, but Lonia stayed. When our Papa married the widow, Chaja Cederbaum, our Mama, she had two daughters, Ewa-Lidka and Zosia Cederbaum. In 1937, Lonia left to join her brothers in Paris. My mother had passed away on January 2, 1935. From this marriage, there were only the two of us twins.
Father remarried in September 1937, and there was yet another child, Salcia. When the war broke out, she was ten months old. Ewa- Lidka and Zosia Cederbaum escaped to Russia. All of us, the three children, my father and stepmother, were at home. I remember that the Germans beat my father very badly and cut off a part of his beard, but he said nothing to the children. The Germans burst into homes and smashed apartments, searching for gold.
In 1940, at the end of October, I walked out of the Warsaw Ghetto. I say that I walked out because I did not plan an escape. I was walking with Janina Przybysz, a friend from Żelazna Street, a girl a few years older than myself. We were chatting with each other, and we passed by the German guards, who did not pay any attention to us.
Only when we were on the other side of the ghetto did we begin to ponder what to do with me. I did not have any documents, anywhere to go. Who would take me in? It didn’t matter that I removed the yellow star from my arm already in the ghetto. Death threatened not only me but all those who would accept me and all the tenants of their apartment building. Nonetheless, Janina Przybysz (Ninka) took me with her to 12? or 19? Zielna Street where she lived just with her mother, because her father had died recently at 79 Żelazna Street.
After a few days, I went to 43 Mokotowska Street to live with Aleksander and Maria Jaźwiński, who had no children. They lived on the ground floor, and in the basement, Aleksander had a locksmith shop. I was with them until Christmas.
I returned to Zielna Street. From there, on December 27, 1940, I was taken in by Mother Michaela Moraczewska, Mother General of the Sisters of the Holy Mother of Mercy. The Sisters had a correctional residence for girls in Warsaw at 3/9 Żytnia Street. Mother Alojza was the educator of the particular class in which I was placed, and I was now called Genia, but before that, they called me Elżbieta. There, I learned colorful embroidery. In May 1941, while seeing a doctor in the health center on Okopowa Street, I was recognized by the nurse, Helena Wiśniewska.
Therefore, I had to immediately change my place of residence. I went to the Grochów district to 44 Hetmańska Street where the same order of Sisters had another correctional residence. I was given the name Urszula. It affected me greatly, knowing of the danger to me and to them. I never said anything about myself, nor did I ask questions about anything, my family or the ghetto. Therefore, I don’t know where they died and what kind of death they had. At 44 Hetmańska Street, I learned to work in the garden and in the hothouse. I was there more than a year, and then I went again to Ninka on Zielna Street, where I stayed until June 1943.
Before June 13, 1943, while walking with Ninka along Krakowskie Przedmieście, on the corner of Miodowa Street, I met Mrs. Pączkowska, who had lived before at 79 Żelazna Street and knew me well. She seized me by the collar of my coat and led me so, saying, “You escaped from the ghetto, and your father gave money or gold to Janina Przybysz, and she is hiding you. I am going to take you back to the ghetto immediately.” I answered, “I escaped by myself and will return by myself.”
In the middle of Miodowa Street, I broke free and ran away, fleeing along the narrow streets of the Starówka district. I stopped running because I was afraid that she would tell others to chase and catch me or that she might cry out, “Chase her!” I returned to Zielna Street and together with Ninka went to Żytnia Street to Mother Alojza to ask her for help. She wrote a letter to the Sisters in Częstochowa who lived at 3/9 Saint Barbara Street, and she asked a lady she knew to take me there.
From the thirteenth of June, 1943 on, I stayed there and was given the name Mirka. That was also a correctional residence. I went there with a Kennkarte issued at 3/9 Żytnia Street. In Częstochowa, I also changed my place of residence several times. Here, I learned to sew on a machine, and we sewed work pants as well as smocks for the Germans. I sewed pants, as this was easier. This was assembly work. I was not able to attend school throughout the entire war. On November 21, 1945, I left Częstochowa to go to Bliżyn, where Ninka Przybyszwas the director of a kindergarten, and I became a caretaker there.
Only after the war did I realize that I was not recorded anywhere in a registry of births. When I went to the elementary school for adults and then to a high school for those already working and to a School of Nursing, I needed a birth certificate. In 1949, I myself wrote to the courts and requested that I be able to keep the name I used during this occupation period.