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Oral history interview with Wanda Biernacka and Andrzej Jonas

Oral History | Accession Number: 1991.A.0113.1 | RG Number: RG-50.059.0001

Wanda Biernacka, born in 1919 in Zyrardow, Poland, describes living in Warsaw, Poland, where her father was a railroad worker; her younger sister; attending a school where there were no Jews; coming into contact with Jews in the Polish Socialist Party, which she joined in 1937; meeting the Jonas family at the Siudyla family’s house and being asked to help shelter a Jewish family; the Jonas family consisting of four people, a mother, father, a six year old, and a two year old (Andrzej Jonas); taking care of Andrzej at her house until the end of the war; the older son changing hiding places several times and how she was often the only one who had any contact with him; Mrs. Jonas hiding at her cousin’s home in Zyrardow; all of the family surviving the war; her attempts to help the Szeleszewski family; helping Mrs. Palatynski, the sister of Bronislawa Jonas, and her daughter; helping Mrs. Jona Perec; helping about 11 people, not including those who just needed identity papers; the process of obtaining identity papers from the Department of Vital Records by reusing the files of the deceased; how it took about ten people to make new papers; her estimate that it took about twenty people to save one Jewish person; being aware of the risks involved with helping Jews; the differences between the life of an Aryan verse life in the ghetto; the smuggling of food; seeing the ghetto while going through it on the tram; the delivery of food to the ghetto; and how she received a medal of honor and a certificate from Yad Vashem in 1984.

Andrzej Jonas, born in Warsaw on October 28, 1940, describes how Mrs. Wanda Biernacka was his “war mother”; being taken care of by Mrs. Biernacka during the war; how his memory of that time is very limited; his first memory, which was of his family escaping the ghetto; being in a small dark room with his mother; his memory of receiving a toy filled with candy; how his favorite place in Mrs. Biernacka’s house was the kitchen; his memories of one incident when he saw a wounded German soldier in the garden and charged at him with a wooden toy gun calling out “hands up” and the soldier laughing; going back with his mother after the war; meeting his father once in a coffee shop during the war; liberation and Russian officers setting up a headquarters in their building; being friendly with the officers; and learning to sing Russian songs.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Jonas, Andrzej
Biernacka, Ms. Wanda
Urbanowicz-Gilbride, Bozenna M.
interview:  1991 July 04
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2022-06-16 09:50:11
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