Marian Bobrzyk, born in 193?
We crossed to the other side
As far as I remember, my family was only Mama, Papa, and me. We lived in Wilno. I do not remember exactly the name of the street. Based on the prewar map of Wilno which I have, I think that it may have been Makowa Street, or near that street, which is in the center of Wilno. The apartment was on the bottom floor but high above the ground. There were a few steps, and first, one entered the kitchen, then a large room, and next, a small room. All the windows opened onto the courtyard. If one wanted to go to the city, one went down. On the main street, there stood a large round building.
When the occupation of Wilno began, the Germans came to our place and ordered us to pack up our belongings. Then, the street through which we used to enter the ghetto was walled off. Of our life in the ghetto, I remember that I went to a synagogue and was learning to read and write. Mainly, I used to go to the gate to watch people returning from work in the city. Father also worked in the city. At the gate, there were searches. If they found some food on someone, they would take him to a room where there was a plain bed of boards. The person had to lie down, and they beat him with bludgeons. Some did not get up after the beatings. Then, they put him on a stretcher and carried him out somewhere.
During our stay in the ghetto, Mama gave birth to a baby. I don’t know whether it was a girl or a boy. I remember that on the other side of our entryway there must have been a hospital or an infirmary, because Mama came out of there with the baby. After some time, the baby got sick, and they placed it in the hospital. Then, the baby died in the hospital. Life went on. I was forever famished.
When they started liquidating the ghetto, then, on a certain day, my father took us to a house by the wall. On the ground floor, we entered the stairwell and then an abandoned apartment. In a room, there was a hole in the wall. In the evening, we crossed over to the other side. Then, we went across the street and walked quite far along a road through fields. In one field, there was a barn, and we spent the night there. In the morning, a man came and said something.
“by the wall” – a wall separating the ghetto from the rest of the city.
We then set out for the ghetto, together with the people who were returning from work. I don’t remember whether Mama was with us or it was someone else. When there were only a few people left in the ghetto, we used to hide in an attic. You entered the attic through an apartment in which there was a big tiled stove. Above the stove, there was a kind of trapdoor. Initially, we would hide when there was a roundup. When it was over, we came down to our apartments. Later, we stayed in the attic the whole time. There were about twenty or thirty of us. At night, people left the attic to search for food. We spent about a week in the attic. On a certain day in the evening, when it was dusk, two military men arrived and ordered us to come down from the attic. People gave them whatever they had and then descended to the second floor in the stairwell by the entryway. We stood there a relatively long time until somebody noticed that the attic was burning. People started running down the stairs. I called out, “Papa!” Someone grabbed me by the hand, and we stepped down into the street. It turned out that it was my father.
“with the people who were returning from work” – they joined the people returning from work in order to enter the ghetto unnoticed. They had been outside the ghetto illegally that day in order to avoid a planned liquidation.
Perhaps a miracle happened. We stood in the street until some gentleman and lady walked up to us. They told my father something, and then we went deep into the ghetto. I kept asking Father where Mother was. He said that she would come later. I never saw Mother again. We went along the street; it was already nighttime. We arrived at the entryway, then at the apartment in which there was a big hole in the wall.
By morning, more people arrived at this apartment. We waited until it became light. In the morning, we crossed over through the hole. We were approximately ten persons. On the other side, there was an apartment in ruins, and not far away was a church. One man went to talk to the priest. Afterwards, every so often, one of us entered the church. We waited until there were many people in the streets. Then, we exited the church at intervals, mostly in twos. Our foursome left the church, I with that lady, and Papa with that man.
We walked, separated by fifty meters, along a street with railroad tracks, in the direction of the train station. A small guardhouse stood alongside the road. The lady told me that when we got close to the booth, if the guard said something, then I was to say, “Yes, Yes,” in Polish. Thus, we passed by it, but Father, with this gentleman, turned left away from the railroad tracks before reaching the booth. Evidently, they were afraid to walk by it. It was there that I saw Father for the last time.
The lady took me into the station and said that she was going to get Father and that she would come for me. I sat down on the grass and waited. People started staring at me. Therefore, I got up and paced back and forth. This lasted for several hours. People said something to me, but I did not know what. Then some lady came, took me by the hand, and we walked downward in the direction of Ostrobramska Street, then somewhere near Dominikańska Street where this lady lived. This lady’s name was Bobrzyczka. She lived with a daughter who was about twenty years old. The apartment was in a garret.
Mrs. Bobrzyczka pushed the cupboard away from the wall and made a hiding place for me. It was approximately half a meter. She said that I had to listen whether someone was coming. I had to listen and to learn to speak Polish. In the daytime, I sat in the hiding place, but at night, I slept in the attic. The apartment had a small door in the wall, shielded by a cupboard in the daytime; there was no other entrance to this attic. My bedding was a pile of straw, old clothes, and a sheepskin coat. When I slept, it looked like a pile of trash.
After a certain time, I learned to speak Polish. Mrs. Bobrzyczka took me out to the city. People in our stairwell asked who I was, and Mrs. Bobrzyczka said that I came from the country and that I was a relative. Later, I went to the city by myself.
Once the following happened to me. I was in the city, and I encoun- tered several boys my age. They said something to me. I answered some- thing, and they started yelling at me, “Jew! Jew! Jude!” I took off in the direction of the house, and they kept yelling, “Jude! Jude!” I made my way to the door of the apartment and said that they were chasing me. Mrs. Bo- brzyczka quickly hid me in the attic. I crawled into the straw. Mrs. Bobrzy- czka covered me with some things. The boys informed the SS that a Jew had run into the stairwell. They came with a dog and searched for me. It is probably a miracle that they did not discover me. They stood the whole day in the street and watched whether I would come out. Afterwards, I did not go out to the city any more.
When the front was approaching and there were air raids at night, then Mrs. Bobrzyczka and her daughter sought shelter in basements, but I would stay in the apartment. Later, when the Germans started to flee, Mrs. Bobrzyczka took me at night to a carpenter’s shop in some courtyard. In the shop, there was plenty of sawdust. In the daytime, I lay in the sawdust, and towards evening, Mrs. Bobrzyczka came, bringing food, and I went out into the courtyard. I was there for several days.
Later, when Germans were burning houses, Mrs. Bobrzyczka, her daughter, and I hid in the cellars under the church. We were about fifty persons. The Germans, fleeing, burst into the cellars, took people out and killed them in the street. Mrs. Bobrzyczka dressed me up as a girl. I had a scarf on my head, I was covered up, and I was lying down. She said that I was sick. This is how it went until the city of Wilno was liberated.
Afterwards, we lived on another street. Immediately after the war, there was nothing to eat. Mrs. Bobrzyczka placed me in a children’s home. She told them that I was a child from the ghetto and that it was not known what my name was. She told them to record my name as Michał Bobrzyk.
Other data were invented. I visited Mrs. Bobrzyczka every week, and she fed me. I then attended school. We were learning the Lithuanian and the Polish languages. Everyone spoke in his own tongue.
I wandered with my schoolmates all around the city. I showed them where I lived during the war in the ghetto. To this day, I am friends with one of them, named Józef Kołyszko. Then, some lady came from Poland and announced that anyone who wanted to go to Poland should sign up. Approximately half the children wanted to leave. After a certain time, we traveled to Poland. Mrs. Bobrzyczka and her daughter remained in Wilno. During the years 1945–52, I stayed in the following children’s homes on Polish territory: in Winebork (Bydgoszcz province), in Jelenia Góra, Włocławek, and Toruń. During the years 1952–53, in the Service for Poland in Gdańsk, I qualified as a welder. In 1954, I started a family. In 1961, I suffered an accident at work, and both my legs were amputated. Nonetheless, I worked as an invalid of the first group until July 1, 1991.
Since 1990, I am a widower and live alone.