Regina Zajączkowska lived together with her husband and teenage son in a wooden house in Włodzimierz Wołyński. They lived a quiet life: Richard was in middle school, another son studied to be a priest, daughters had their own families.
Ryszard Zajączkowski defines pre-war Polish-Jewish relations in Włodzimierz Wołyński as: „Anti-Semitism was not found often. For example, Jews lived near us before the war. I played with them. I even knew a few words in Hebrew. When i lived in Włodzimierz, everyone lived in peace, there were no signs of anti-Semitism, no slaughters”1.
The missile fell on Regina’s house and burned everything around. Zajączkowski managed to escape with their lives, but they had no place to go. In this situation, Regina moved to the home of her daughter, Maria Janiak. Mary lived with her husband, Ludwik, and their 5-year-old son Tomasz.
In the neighborhood of the Janiak lived a Jewish family. When the round-ups of Jews began, Ludwik, who belonged to Home Army, suggested that he will take them to Bielin, where Home Army had their camp. The family refused. Germans knocked on their apartments door the next day – they loaded them on the wagon and took them away. No one heard about them ever since.
One day, the Abbot Włodzimierz Wołyński informed the people gathered at the mass, that a Polish women came to him. Irena Franciak fled from Lwów together with her 5-years-old daughter Ania and was looking for work. The woman was taken in by Regina’s daughter, Izabela Stasiuk. After a while, being afraid of Ukrainian nationalists, Izabela took Irena to her mother. Shortly afterwards, it turned out that Irena was not sincere towards the Zajączkowski family and the Janiaks. „I was in the kitchen along with her and and her daughter. Child reached for the glass and Irena Franciak Said: „Leave it, because you will break the glass”. I felt cold shivers running down my spine when i heard those words. I think to myself: no Kaszub, no Highlander would ever say that you will break the glass. Only a Jewess would say it like that. I told my mom that Ms Irena is a Jewess. Even her features were particularly
Jewish, black hair and long nose. Mother [Said], „She confessed to me, that she was a Jewess”.”2
Ludwik Janiak checked her in as his cousin from Poznańskie, whose husband died at the front, fighting on the Wermacht side. Part of the house, in which Janiaks lived, was rented to the officers from Wehrmacht. It was a convenient location for them because military barracks were located on the opposite side of the street. Beautiful Irena drew the attention of the officers. They often asked little Tomaszek, to whom she was aunt, about her. Irena, for obvious reasons, avoided meeting soldiers and to prove her faith, she went to the church everyday.
Irena survived the war in the Regina’s family, for whom she became a full-fledged family member. In 1948 Irena and Ania moved to Lwów, and in 1957 they emigrated to Israel.
After the war, the Russians hunted for the former members of AK. As a result of Irens testimony, Ludwik was sentenced to eight years of exile in Siberia. After his return, his family was still repressed: they had to move few times and Maria was fired from work.
December 6, 1984 Regina Zajączkowski, Ryszard Zajączkowski, Maria Janiak and Izabella Stasiuk for their help and support provided in difficult times of the occupation to Irena and Anna Franciak were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations of the World.
- I Gutman, Polscy Sprawiedliwi wśród Narodów Świata, [w:] Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata. Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu. Polska, cz. I, red. wyd. pol. D. Libionka, R. Kuwałek, A. Kopciowski, Kraków 2009.
- FLV, Nagranie audio, sygn. 811_2301, relacja Tomasza Janiaka z 24.07.2014 r.
- FLV, Włodzimierz Wołyński. Relacje, Ryszard Zajączkowski, 2003 r.
*Według relacji Ryszarda Zajączkowskiego to on zameldował Irenę u Austriaka, który mieszkał w tym samym budynku; Niemcy tytułowali go „Sonderfuhrer”.
No extra materials