Jerzy Zawadzki alias „Mały” (born in 1936) before the war lived with his parents at Sienna street in Warsaw. His mother – Aniela (from family Łużyńska, born in 1912) was a housewife, and his father Jan (born 1901) worked in the chemical laboratory of Stanisław Górksi, on the street Koszykowa 20. Jerzy, from a young age was interested in army, he loved to watch how guards were changing their shifts at Pilłudski square at the Saxon Garden.
On 25th of September 1939 had place air raid of German bombers over Warsaw. Sirens started when little Jerzy came home for lunch. All the residents gathered in the stairwell on the floor ground. They prayed in front of the icon of the Mother of God. Suddenly Jerzy told his mother that he really wanted to run quickly with her to their family friend – Stanisław Górski, who was a military pilot and lived on the Okopowa street. Górski often talked about things that Jerzy was interested in, but it wasn’t clear why the boy felt this urgent need to visit him.
When they were about 300 meters away from their block of flats on a Central Station and their house fell bomb. The mother covered her son with her own body and after a minute. they ran straight to Mr. Górski. There he let them wash and gave them clear clothes for change.
Their home was gone. Jerzy started crying, because in the avalanche was killed his dog and canaries birds. As a kid he didn’t realize that all the people who were together with him and his mother praying before the painting, were also killed.
Jan found for them an empty apartment on Żelazna street. They stayed there for 2-3 months. After that time came Germans and gave them 15 minutes to move out. A woman who was then their neighbor noticed that Aniela was expecting a baby and fearing about her and baby’s future told her that on the Ogrodowa street is an empty apartment, and they can move into it. The news have spread and within a few hours, different people brought the furniture for them. It was then, when Warsaw uprising started.
For the family became a habit that when Aniela’s husband was coming back from work, he was taking little Jerzy to Powązki cemetery because the boy liked to watch old, beautiful tombs of important people from the past. Mother always gave him a sandwich with jam. Jan put the sandwich and a few books to boy’s backpack However, they were not going to cemetery but they were entering to the ghetto. Jerzy was giving away his sandwich to Jewish children.
Stanisław Górski made for Zawadzki a pass to the ghetto. Jan often used it. Usually he visited dr Minde – Jew who were living at Nowolipki 11 street Once Zawadzki moved to another room with three other Jews, and Jerzy stayed with a nurse. His father took boy’s backpack with him. When the women left for a moment to the kitchen, the boy wanted to found his father. He entered the room, but no one was there. When he turned away and closed the door, the woman saw him and started to cry, because for a moment she got so nervous that he wasn’t where she left him. After the war Jerzy realized how dangerous wandering alone was. The boy at that could guess that in his backpack, his father were smuggling weapon to the ghetto.
Jerzy along with his friends threw food over the wall of the ghetto hoping to deliver it to those who needed it. Also after imprisonment of the prison on Gęsia street, called Gęsiówka he helped to withdrawal the liberated prisoners.
When started the raid on Karcelak market – the biggest market in Warsaw at that time – to their apartment in Ogrodowa street ran three Jewish women They asked to let them hide in the closet. Jerzy’s mother did not agree for this. She put one of them to bed and put medicines next to it, another one she gave potatoes to peel, and the third she dressed as the maid and told her to sweep the floor.
After 15 minutes the Germans entered the apartment to conduct a search. Aniela showed them her documents and explained that women were her sisters. Suddenly something moved in the closet. The German officer was about to shoot, but little Jerzy stopped him. He walked over to the wardrobe and picked up a small rabbit he hid there before. The German seeing that just left. Women slept at Zawadzkich house and left the apartment on the next day.
Jerzy and his father participated in the Warsaw uprising. Because of that, the family was later sent to the camp and was separated. In the camp, which Jerzy got to, the boy after some time managed to find his mother. The woman, who was pregnant at the moment of exile, gave in the camp birth to a daughter – Elżbieta.
The manager of the factory that Aniela worked in hid Jerzy and his little sister in a doghouse. Thanks to that, they survived. It is not known what was the fate of the Jews, whom Zawadzcy helped before.
When after war, Jews asked Aniela who specifically from Ogrodowa street helped their people during German occupation she answered: „There was not only one name. The whole street helped them, all Poles”. She didn’t want to stand out, but she wanted to show the unity and solidarity of the Poles.
- FLV, nagranie video, relacja Jerzego Zawadzkiego, Kielce, 26.01.2017 r.
Jerzy Zawadzki story. Program on the radio.