In the previous article I wrote about people from the Dębno municipality who helped Jews hiding from the German invaders during the Second World War. Two people were missing on that list – Jan Wojciech and Maria Flądro. This was not a mistake, but a deliberate action, as this couple deserves special attention as they are the only ones among the inhabitants of the municipality of Dębno who were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Jan Wojciech was born on March 5, 1893 in Wola Dębińska as the son of Marcin Flądro and Anna née Kurek. His future wife Maria was born on May 6, 1901 in Dębno; she was the daughter of Tomasz Witek and Maria Kubala. Jan married Maria on May15, 1920. The couple settled in Dębno, where they ran a farm together. There seemed to be nothing special about this family, they led a quiet life like most people in the countryside, but everything changed in September 1939. The outbreak of war brought unrest and also derailed many people’s plans. But even then Jan and Maria did not expect what awaited them in the years to come; the fact that they would be able to risk their own lives to save someone else never crossed their minds.
It all started in June 1943, when Herman Sperber came to the Flądros’ household with a request for help, together with his cousin Regina Glassner. By then they had been searched for by the occupation authorities for almost a year and had been hiding in various places in the Dębno municipality. Despite his fears for his family, Wojciech agreed to let Herman and Regina stay with his family for a few days. The fact that Wojciech knew Herman well before the war helped him in making the decision.
The Jews were hiding in the attic of the barn, where a “false pillar” had been constructed especially for them – they could hide behind it in case of danger. In the end, these few days stretched out to 18 months, during which the Flądro family was taking care of Herman and Regina.
Wojciech and Maria devoted themselves entirely to the cause; they were aware of the fact that at any moment the Germans could burn down their house, murdernot only them, but also the children. After all, the German police did not stop searching for fugitive Jews, random searches and round-ups were organised to track them down. Throughout all this time, they were consistent in helping the Jewish couple, even though there were several situations that could have had a tragic outcome.
One such event was related to Herman’s involvement in the theft of a pig from the manor buildings, which were under German administration. Because of the traces of the crime left at the scene, the Germans initiated a search. Their dogs caught a trail that led them directly to the house of Wojciech Flądro. A search of the entire farmstead was ordered, and one of the German police officers noticed a hole in the barn’s ceiling and, confident of what he was doing, decided to check the attic where Regina and Herman were staying at the time.
It is hard to imagine what Wojciech, Maria, their children and those hiding in the attic were going through. However, the members of the household kept a cool head and did not reveal anything that could arouse the suspicions of the perpetrators. The “false pillar” also worked, thanks to which the Jews could not be found.
When Herman and Regina found out that the war was over, they immediately wanted to come out of hiding and start a new life. However, Maria Flądro warned them about two men who were monitoring the farm with the intention of murdering them; hence, the Flądros once again managed to save lives.
Herman and Regina survived the occupation thanks to the help of many people, but it was Maria and Wojciech who contributed the most to their survival, and the Jewish couple never forgot it. Until the end of his life, Herman stayed in touch with the Flądro family, and thanks to his efforts, Yad Vashem awarded Jan Wojciech and Maria Flądro the medal “Righteous Among the Nations” on 18 January 1983.
Many people knew the Flądro family, especially Jan, to whom people often came in the post-war years to ask for advice about livestock. Did people know how much good he had done during the war? Some people probably had no idea, but this did not change the fact that Jan was liked and respected in the village, as was his wife. Jan Flądro died on January 16,1989, while Maria died on August 4,1985. They both lived in Dębno until the end of their lives.
© Szymon Smaga-Kumorek, 2023