Rachel (Rozalia) Schrank (later Anna Bratko, 1922-1995) was born in Borzecin as the daughter of Szymon Schrank and Erna née Sattler. She had an older sister Bluma (1917-2008) and a younger brother Maks (Marian,1925-1942). Her father Szymon died in a hospital in Tarnow in 1936 at the age of 48; her mother Erna (born in Bielcza in 1891) and brother Maks (born in Borzecin in 1925) were murdered in the Holocaust. Rachel (Rozalia) survived due to Genowefa Smajdo.
Genowefa Smajdo (1917-1995) was hiding Rozalia Schrank, her mother, brother, cousin Josef Tellerman and aunt Sabina Knobloch (née Sattler) with children. They escaped from Brzesko just before the ghetto was liquidated. Not for long, however. They had to leave their hiding place when blackmailers betrayed their whereabouts in Borzęcin to the Germans. Only Rozalia survived – she had a false kennkarte and was sent to work in Germany together with other Polish women. The same fate befell her guardian.
Rozalia Schrank survived the war. In 1945 she was baptized in the parish church in Borzęcin Górny. In 1946 she married Jan Opiła, and after his untimely death in 1973 she married Kazimierz Bratko.
Genowefa Smajdo never married. Until her death in 1995, she lived in Borzecin and was very ill
In 1994, Anna Bratko (Rozalia Schrank) applied to the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem for Genowefa Smajdo to be awarded the “Righteous Among the Nations” title. In this application she wrote, among other things: “As a girl because I was of Jewish descent, I was forced to work together with other people of that. I had to get up every day at 4 o’clock and by 6 o’clock I had to be on the tracks at work in Biadoliny. While working there, I accidentally met Mrs. Genowefa Smajdo, born on January 23, 1917 in Łęki, Tarnów province, who was single back then and remains single now. This woman brought food to us young Jews almost every day, this took place in Biadoliny where we worked….
I stayed in the Ghetto in Brzesko, and after some time, when they were about to liquidate the Ghetto in Brzesko, Smajdo let us know that the Ghetto would be liquidated in days, that she had certain data that they would deport us to unknown places. That’s when she initiated the final help…”
On December 13, 1995, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem awarded Genowefa Smajdo the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.
From the Yad Vashem database:
“Rozalia Schrauk (later Anna Bratko) worked outside the ghetto Brzesko where she became acquainted with Genowefa Smajdo from the village of Borzecin, in the Krakow district. Smajdo, a young, single woman, used to come almost every day to the Jewish prisoners’ place of work, to bring them food. When Smajdo found out that the Germans were about to liquidate the Brzesko ghetto, she warned Rozalia of the danger, and offered to shelter her and her family in her home. During the ghetto’s liquidation, Rozalia’s family, her aunt, and her aunt’s children, fled to Smajdo’s home, and hid in a shelter she prepared for them in her yard. After the authorities were alerted by informers, the refugees had to abandon their hiding place and all of them perished, except for Rozalia, who was sent as a Pole to work in Germany and survived. Smajdo, who was also sent to work in Germany, returned after the war to Poland, where her family ostracized her for having helped Jews during the occupation. Rozalia remained in Poland where she kept up close ties with her savior.”
The medal and the diploma were received in Krakow by Anna Bratko’s husband, Kazimierz – unfortunately, both Genowefa Smajdo and Anna Bratko died several months before the solemn ceremony. Gemowefa Smajdo and Anna Bratko were buried in one tomb at the parish cemetery in Borzęcin Górny.
© Anna Brzyska, 2023