Maria Kuśmierkiewicz lived with her husband Andrzej and her children in Warsaw, at Bednarska street. The woman before the war suffered from a complicated vein-related illness that sometimes caused hemorrhage. Maria was treated by many doctors, but each of them claimed that the disease is incurable. Finally, she came to the specialist of Jewish origin, Emil Apfelbaum, who to the surprise of all, cured her of this affliction. Dr. Apfelbaum lived with his family in Warsaw at Złota street. Later he was transferred to the ghetto.
In the early spring of 1943 to the door of Maria Kuśmierkiewicz knocked unexpected guests. Maria’s grandson, Krzysztof Kakowski, recalls: „It turned out that Dr. Apfelbaum had came. He said -” Mrs. Kuśmierkiewicz, I saved your life several times, now save mine and my family.” It was clear what was going on.1 My grandmother, though incredibly surprised, agreed without hesitation. Apfelbaum brought his wife and two children. The family at the beginning was hiding in Maria’s bedroom.
In the apartment, was also a point of departure, a lock for the underground press and intelligence reports. One day, two American pilots were brought there. After some time, the daughter of Maria, Bronisława Ehrenberg, led them from Warsaw to Zakopane, from where they were transferred through Slovakia to Hungary. After some time the family decided that it was too dangerous to hide the Apfelbaums’ longer – so they decided to find another place for them.
Doctor’s family was relocated to the attic of an apartment at Wąski Dunaj street in the old town. „The apartment was occupied by a lone senior railroad man, who was known to be constantly on the road, and then the apartment was closed on a large padlock. And no one was surprised that the apartment was closed but the padlock was so modified that it was possible to open it from the inside and exit into the corridor. The railway man probably did not unselfishly agreed to rent this attic. While Dr. Apfelbaum face features were close to Aryan, his wife and children had typical Semitic features. There was no way they could safely march from Bednarska street. As a result, Mrs. Apfelbaum wrapped her head with some bandages, the children were wrapped up and all were taken to a new place by a cart.”2 To cover expenses related to catering for Apfelbaums and renting an attic, Kuśmierkiewicz had to sell their large house in Świdr village. Every two to three days someone from the family (including 14-year-old Maria’s grandson, Krzysztof) went to street Wąski Dunaj and left food in the sandbox to extinguish the fires. He also picked up a request letter. The pre-determined knock on the door was a signal for the Apfelbaum. The family was hiding until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.
The Kuśmierkiewicz family was involved in helping the Jewish population during the German occupation. The aforementioned Krzysztof Kakowski assisted the inhabitants of the ghetto: „I have been in the secret scouting since 1942 – the Gray Ranks. As a scout, while passing through the ghetto by trams guarded by the blue police, using the fact that the tramway bridge was uncovered, it was possible to throw food in form of biscuits, onions or porridge. What did we do as scouting actions.” At the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, Kuśmierkiewicz lost contact with the protégés from Wąski Dunaj street3 – the old town was cut off from the other districts of the capital city. Just a few days after the uprising, district Wola burned and Maria’s family had to leave the apartment. Kuśmierkiewicz were imprisoned in Pruszków from where later they managed to escape.
After the liberation, they returned to their apartment in Warsaw, which was happily neither burnt nor bombed. Bronisława Ehrenberg, who was the main organizer of the aid given to the Apfelbaum, immediately went to Wąski Dunaj street to ask about doctor’s family. The woman found a completely destroyed house there. None of the neighbors could tell what happened to the inhabitants of the attic.
On day of April 1945, Bronisława walked on the street Nowy Świat to work. Suddenly she met the doctor Apfelbauma. Krzysztof Kakowski reports:
„Doctor! Are you alive? How happy I am! ”
From the short conversation it appeared that all four survived and left Warsaw with a group of inhabitants of the Old Town, and now returned.
“Doctor, I was on the Wąski Dunaj street and there was nothing I could find out about you. It is a pity you did not come to Bednarska street where we live.”
„I did not come because I thought all the Germans have killed you.”
“I invite you then.”
And so the meeting ended. They never visited us.”4 Probably Apfelbaums quickly emigrated to Israel after the war. Any trace of them disappears.
„Left only the bitterness of my aunt’s happy meeting with Doctor, in the first day of spring on the Nowy Świat street”5.
- FLV, List od Krzysztofa Kakowskiego [wnuk], Warszawa, 08.04.2014 r.
- FLV, Nagranie audio, sygn. 811_3437, relacja Krzysztofa Kakowskiego z 13.08.2015 r.
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