By Lucjan Kołodziejski
Emilia Piękosz Hynek passed away on February 18, 2019. She was the last of the seven Righteous of Borzecin to bear such an honorable title. About ten years ago, I interviewed her about the help her mother provided to a Jewish family hiding in their house during the war. Their entire family could have been executed for helping to hide Jews! However, none of the residents of Granice/ Borzecin Górny revealed their whereabouts. Below you will find the text of that interview.
“I was born in 1930, on December 11 I will be 83 years old. When the war broke out, I was 9 years old. I saw the Polish army fleeing near our house. Daddy was not at home at the time. He was in working in Germany. After six months he came back to us. In this house there lived: mom, dad, brother Józek and grandparents, who died during the war. I remember them as if through some fog. I have lived here all my life since I was born. I went to school in Upper Borzecin, actually the school was closed. There was a war … they taught us in our houses – where Matera Józek lived and somewhere else. I worked for 25 years in Mościce in the kitchen at Azoty. Later I retired. My husband died, I raised 3 children by myself, it was hard…
Here lived Racha [Wolf Werbel’s wife, most likely Rachel – L.K. ], that’s what they called her. She was tall, her black hair was cut short. Duda later moved into the house where they used to live. They had a store there, a kind of grocery store. I used to come there. Once I got lost, and it was Racha who brought me back home. Dad bought a field from them.
Those Jews escaped from the train, from Biadoliny and came to her to live. She told them to live with us, because our house was out of the way. She brought them to us at night, knocked on the window. Germans later took her (Rachel) and she perished without a trace.
They didn’t go outside, they were just sitting in that barn for days. There were three of them, father, mother and son Adam. When my mother cooked, she gave some food in a bag and I carried it there. I carried milk to them in a glass bottle. Once this Adam followed me out. Because he was from the same year as me, we played together. Next door lived a neighbor, Wojdak Władysław. He knew that we were hiding Jews, but he didn’t even tell his own son about it. He was a decent man. Apart from him, no one knew. He asked where the little boy was from, and I said my uncle’s son.
Throughout the winter, they stayed here in this room. In the winter, we would bring wood from the forest and chop it down. They would burn it and sit in this room. My mother cooked sour soup on whey, because there were 2 cows, a horse and a heifer. My mother was a seamstress and what she sewed clothes for them, whatever she could. Mommy told me not to say anything, so that I wouldn’t squeal. There was never any search in the house. No one knew about the fact that we were helping Jews. I don’t remember exactly how long they stayed here, but more than half a year. They left when the war ended. Someone came to pick them up. They said goodbye. When Adam became an adult after the war, he remembered that he had lived here. He came here. Mom lived to see him arrive. He really wanted me to go to Israel. When Adam came people thought I had some boyfriend. He invited our entire family to Israel. Only I wasn’t in that Israel. Because people would say that I followed a boyfriend. He liked to eat sour soup and potatoes. When he came to visit, I had to cook it quickly. They waited for abut two hours.
My mother was a very honest person. Her father (my grandfather) told to help them. My father said to my mother: “Those wishes of yours!” He was not very happy about the idea. I was there in Brzezinki (Birkenau – L. K. ) with Adam and his son. I have this medal, only I hid it somewhere, the diploma too, I don’t know where it is. Adam brought me this medal and diploma. Later Adam came here about 10 times. His mother was Polish, Stefania, and his father was Jewish (after the war Adam’s father left for Israel and never came back here). Adam’s mother was here a couple of times after the war. Adam later sort of left the Jewish people. His funeral was in Krakow, they put him in the grave in such a small box (urn – L. K. ).
In 2009, the Polish-language version of the Book of the Righteous Among the Nations was published. On its pages there are the names of thousands of Poles and short descriptions of the reasons for them to be rewarded the title of Righteous. Among them – on page 577 – you can find information on Mrs. Emilia Hynek-Piękosz, quoted in full below. She was the last living person from Borzęcin honoured with the title of the Righteous Among the Nations. The words from the Talmud can be seen on the honorary diploma: “Whoever saves one life, saves the w0rld entire”. There were more righteous from Borzęcin. All of them, however, have died. Their names are inscribed on the Honorary Plaque in the Righteous Among the Nations Park on the Hill of Remembrance in Jerusalem.
On July 7, 1996, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Julia Piękosz and her daughter Emilia Hynek (nee Piękosz) the title of the Righteous Among the Nations: “Edward and Stefania Rozman, their sons Leopold and Adam and daughter Stanisława lived in the village of Wyciąże, near Krakow. The Rozman family remained in their own home until 1942. One day, police officers showed up to deport them, and they fled to the nearby village of Branice, where they found a place to hide. After someone informed on them to the authorities, they were forced to leave the village after just a few days; after much wandering, they arrived in the village of Borzęcin, in the Brzesko county, in the Kraków district. They went to the home of Julia Piękosz, a former acquaintance, who despite the danger to her own life and that of her 13-year-old daughter Emilia, gave them asylum in her home without asking for or receiving anything in return. The five Jewish fugitives were hidden in one of the farm buildings, and Piękosz took them under her wing, cared for them and safeguarded them out of her love of humanity and loyalty to past acquaintances. After five months, because of the many searches for Jews in the area and the fear that the fugitives would be discovered, the five fugitives left their hiding place on Piękosz’s farm and hid out in the nearby forest. Under these conditions too, Piękosz continued to help them, and her daughter Emilia came daily to the hiding place in the forest to bring them food and clothing. After winter came, the Rozmans would steal into Piękosz’s home at night to sleep, and for two years, until their liberation by the Red Army in January 1945, Piękosz served them hot soup and let them wash and rest before returning to their hiding place in the forest.”
After the war, the Rozman family moved to Israel. They corresponded with the Piękosz daughter, and their son Adam visited her many times.
© Lucjan Kołodziejski, 2022