Potatoes smuggled into the ghetto
“Near our house lived my and my father’s friend, Wiesiek Bożym. Wiesiek lived on the Zygmuntowski street, parallel to Polna street, where I lived. The edges of the properties touched the fence. One day he called me, asking me to come closer because he wanted to tell me something. He asked if I could go with him to Skruda, to get potatoes, because they were cheaper there and we would take them to the ghetto because the Jews there are starving” – begins her story Uruszla Kaliszewska about the expedition to the Warsaw ghetto.
Eleven years old Urszula and twelve years old Wiesiek went by train to Miłosna. From there, by foot, they reached Skruda. Road back, with the sack of potatoes on a shoulder, was a great challenge for her – she had to rest once in a while. Children were late for their return train. After that, they rode to Rembertow and from there they walked to the ghetto. They went inside from the side of Okuniewska street, through the fence, in which someone deliberately broke some planks. This passage was well known to Wiesiek. It wasn’t his first time smuggling potatoes.
The children separated inside the ghetto. Urszula went into the building pointed by her friend. Only after getting inside did she realize the danger she was in: “I felt safe on Aryan side, but in the ghetto, where we hardly dragged the sacks and each of us had to work separately I felt fear. House pointed by Wiesiek was made of wood and was located near the Bożnica. The entrance was at the top, before the door there was a platform and steps. The shutters of the house were closed. Urszula went in: “ It was dark inside but I noticed Jews sitting around the table, wearing their prayer shawls, people uncertain of tomorrow that knew what threatened them. They sat in silence, but that was their prayer. I did not dare to speak, a man rose from the table and asked me to scatter the potatoes on the floor, he went to the platform, looked around and said to me: “Can’t see any Germans, run away girl, thank you”. I grabbed the bag, jumped from the platform, skipping the steps, only thinking about getting to the fence sooner. I hit the boards, pushed them aside, and put them back to their rightful place.” Trembling in fear Urszula ran to the nearest courtyard and sat down on the grass. She decided to gather her thoughts and calm down a little. She was afraid that someone might have seen her leaving the ghetto through the fence and considered her a fugitive Jewess. She could be caught – and in the best case – brought back to the ghetto, at worst – executed. She witnessed a situation like this once: “Before my eyes I had a Jewess who was trying to sneak out from the ghetto and got killed by the military policeman (German) called Rudy, who always walked with a dog. He shot her when she was on the Kadrowa street, near the house of Mr Romanczuk. She fell and from the sheet on her back potato peels fell out – “black treasure” paid for in life.
Fortunately, both children managed to safely return home that day. Both of them delivered 30 kilograms of potatoes to some Jewish families. Urszula herself summarizes this operation: “Maybe someone from that family survived or told their grandchildren that the Polish children weren’t passive. That’s how I remember it, and that’s how it happened.”
- FLV, List Urszuli Dymowskiej ( z d. Kaliszewska), Warszawa, 09.12.2013 r.
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