Mieczysław Mijakowski lived together with his wife Zofia and children (Janusz, Adam and Krystyna) in the Warsaw’s Bielany. In the fall of 1943, Wacław Nowiński, a Navy-Blue Policeman, knocked on their apartment’s door. He had an unusual request.
Before the war, Wacław Nowiński worked as a police officer and ran a swimming school on the Vistula. During the occupation he performed the duties of Navy-Blue Police officer. Thanks to that, he could freely enter the ghetto to help the people he knew from the swimming school. He supplied them with food, organized false documents and helped them escape from the ghetto. Matys and Rozalia Berłowicz were among them.
Before the war, Aleksandra, Bierłowiczs’ daughter, was a frequent visitor at the swimming pool. When their was became a part of the ghetto, Wacław brought them bread, onions, and marmalade. After their escape from the ghetto in late March 1943, the family, for about six weeks, hid in the cigarettes and cartridges factory at Mr Gośzczyńki’s place, Located at Żelazna street. Nowiński managed to get them before their hiding place was found. For some time, he hid the family in his own house. After that he moved them to Dionizy’s brother. Even later, he sheltered Dr. Berłowicz and Dr. Rapiport at his harbor, and Rozalia with daughter in Młociny. When even this hideout was discovered, Wacław advised them to hide with his acquaintances from before the war. Mijakowski family was chosen. Before the war, the parents of Zofia Mijakowski were patients of Dr. Berłowicz.
Wacław went to the apartment of Mijakowski, to present the Berłowiczs’ situation to them and ask for their help. Zofia, her husband Mieczysław and sister Antonina Popowska decided, that it would be best to hide them at the latter’s place. Antonina lived in Bielany – Popowska and her sick mother occupied the apartment on the first floor. They also had a room without a cellar. This gave them the opportunity to create a large hiding place under the floor. Mieczysław together with his sons – Adam and Janusz – began construction of the shelter. They cut out a hatch that was closed from the inside. They dug down for a few nights: Mieczysław passed sand and gravel, packed in bags of flour and sugar, to his sons through the window. Desk was placed on the hatch. When the shelter was ready, Wacław brought Popowska to Berłowiczs’. After some time, Dr. Rapiport came with him.
Antonia worked in the accounting Department, so most of the time she wasn’t home. To justify any noises from her apartment, Adam Mijakowski visited her after school. As she recalls after years: „I know, that I wasn’t old enough to make an independent decision about giving them shelter. Aware of the consequences of hiding a Jewish family, I left that decision to my parents and aunt. I could have refused staying in a supposedly empty apartment to mask the noises. Agreeing to it, I made an independent and conscious decision to participate in providing help”.1
Adam went to the Antonina’s apartment with his sister Krysa – the girl played with Ola Berłowicz. Aleksandra relates: „I remember watching children playing on the street, through the crack between the curtain and the wall. They didn’t have to hide”.2 One day, Mijakowskis prepared a big surprise for her: „Adam made a scooter for the girl and they took her outside to have some fun. Today, I realize that it was a very dangerous thing to do”.3
After the Warsaw Uprising, German soldiers moved everyone from Bielany to Pruszków. And Austrian escorting Berłowicz family admitted, that he is ashamed of his duties. He helped them near Wiśniew, allowing their escape. Berłowicz knew, that they would find Mijakowski in Babicach, where lived the third sister of Zofia. The families met in the house belonging to Mr Drzewiński. Nine people lived in one room. The wardrobe standing in the corner was the perfect hiding spot. They hid behind it by removing half of the plywood from its back. Hideout was also used by the Mijakowski family, who avoided getting sent Germany for forced labour.
It happened, that a German officer broke into the house, searching for a man that escaped him. As it turned out, the refugee hid in the attic. Hiding place behind the wardrobe wasn’t discovered. The family returned to Warsaw on 18 January 1944. They remained in close relationship even after the war.
On 17 February 2003, Mieczysław and Michalina Zofia Mijakowski and Antonina Popowska were recognized by the Yad Vashem Institute with the title of Righteous Among the Nation of the World.
- FLV, Berłowicz Aleksandra – zob. [brak autora], Dzieci Holocaustu mówią, [brak miejsca wydania] 2008 r.
- FLV, Oświadczenie Aleksandry Berłowicz-Maj dla Yad Vashem, 30.01.2002 r.
- FLV, Biography of Adam Mijakowski, Warsaw, January 2002.
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