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Blue and white dress worn by a rescued hidden child

Object | Accession Number: 2005.290.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Blue and white dress worn by Sabina Kagan as a child after she was saved from starvation by a Catholic family in Radziwillow, Poland (Radyvyliv, Ukraine). The dress was made for her by Natalia Roztropowicz from 2 doll's dresses. When Sabina was an infant, her parents, who were Jewish, paid to have her hidden by a Polish family. When her parents were murdered, the family abandoned her because they were no longer being paid. Sabina was discovered by a teenage girl who told the Roztropowicz family about her. Jozef and Natalia, and their three children, Janina, 18, Stanislawa (Stanka), 16, and Andrzej, 13, decided to take in Sabina and raise her as if she were their own. They named her Irena and she was baptized as a Catholic in 1945. In October 1948, the family was experiencing hardship and thought it would be best to turn her over to the Coordinating Committee for Jewish Children in Łódź. She was adopted from their orphanage in 1949 by a Jewish couple, Zigmund and Sonia Goszczewski. They immigrated to Israel and never spoke to Sabina about her past. It was not until 1999 that Sabina discovered that she was adopted, that her biological parents had been killed, and that for six years she had been rescued and cared for by the Roztropowicz family. She met the family in 2000 when she attended the ceremony in Warsaw where Jozef and Natalia were posthumously honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.
    use:  1943-1948
    use: in hiding (Radziwillow, Poland) (historic); Radyvyliv (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sabina Heller
    Artist: Natalia Roztropowicz
    Subject: Sabina Heller
    Sabina (Inka) Kagan was born on August 1, 1941, in Radziwillow, Poland (Radyvyliv, Ukraine). Radziwillow was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939 under the terms of the German-Soviet Pact. In June 1941, Germany declared war on the Soviet Union and occupied the territory. During these weeks, the local Ukrainian authorities and populace attacked and murdered many of the Jews in the community. The Germans established a ghetto for the Jews in April 1942, but Sabina’s young parents escaped and went into hiding. However, the Polish policeman and his family with whom they were hiding soon told them to leave. Sabina’s parents begged them to keep their infant daughter. The family agreed, though for a fee. Not long after this, Sabina’s parents were killed when the barn they were hiding in was set on fire. When the Polish family stopped receiving money for Sabina’s care, they abandoned her in a wooden crib in a dark cellar with no clothes or food. A sixteen-year-old girl discovered Sabina and gave her some food. The teenager told the Roztropowicz family that she had found a Jewish child living in horrible conditions. Jozéf and Natalia Taborowska Roztropowicz and their three children, Janina (Janka, 18 yr., Stanislawa (Stanka) 16 yr., and Andrzej, 13 yr., made the decision to take in Sabina and raise her as if she were their own daughter and sister. Sabina was very ill from malnutrition and exposure and not used to people. The family worked together to nurse her back to health, though she would continue to get sick easily. Sabina was given the name Irena (Inka) Roztropowicz. The family told people that she was the child of a cousin who had been murdered during the ethnic cleansing carried out by nationalist Ukrainian groups. That fall, their house was burned by bandits and they had to relocate. The family often had to board German soldiers in their small home. In the spring of 1944, the town was at the center of the warfront as the Soviets advanced from the East. After a bombing raid, the family was ordered to evacuate to the next town. On March 1, 1945, when the war ended as the Russians drove the Germans out, the family was repatriated and authorized to move from newly Soviet controlled Dubno to Polish governed Ostrowie. Sabina started first grade at a Polish school. In July 1945, she was baptized a Catholic in Saint Wojciech's Church.

    In October 1948, the family was contacted by Yehuda Bornstein from the Coordinating Committee for Jewish Children, based in Łódź, Poland. The committee’s mission was to discover and reclaim Jewish children raised by Christian families during the Holocaust. The Roztropowicz’s had made it known to some aid groups that Sabina was Jewish, in the hopes that they might discover surviving family members. Living conditions were extremely difficult in postwar Radziwillow. The family had no money and so they agreed to give Sabina to the Committee, thinking it offered her the best chance for the future. Thus, after living six years with the Roztropowicz’s, seven year old Sabina was placed in an orphanage and now learned with that she was Jewish. The Roztropowicz’s continued to write the Committee for news of Inka as they had been promised updates on her well-being, but after 1950, they received no more information. In 1949, a Jewish couple, Dr. Sonia Kagan and Zigmund Goszczewski, adopted Sabina. They told her that they were her real parents and had been separated from her by the war. Although her adoptive mother did have the same last name, they were not related. One year later, the family immigrated to Israel. Sabina’s name was now Ina Goszczewski. Her adoptive parents never spoke to Sabina about her past.

    In 1970, Sabina married Alfred Heller, a Holocaust survivor who was visiting Israel from the United States. She moved with him to the US, where they lived in California and had two sons. Sabina taught Hebrew and, later, was an elementary school teacher. In 1999, a cousin in Israel called to tell Sabina that a friend doing Holocaust research in Warsaw had discovered her story, and that the Roztropowicz family had been trying for years to find out what had happened to her. That October, Sabina received a follow-up letter and packet from the Ronald Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland informing her that her wartime sister, Stanislawa (Stanka) Roztropowicz-Szkubel, was alive and had been trying for years to locate her. Enclosed were documents from the 1940s, including a diary Stanka kept recording the day they became a family “not of 5 people but of 6.” It had many details of Inka’s rescue and recovery as a cherished family member. This news was shocking to Sabina. Her adoptive parents, both deceased by this time, had never broken their silence about her past. She began corresponding with Stanka and in 2000, met Stanka, Janka, Zosia, and Zendryk Roztropowicz at the ceremony in Warsaw where their parents were posthumously honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Object Type
    Child's dress (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Handmade, cotton, doll's dress repurposed for a small child. It has a blue and white dot pattern, short bell sleeves, and an empire waist. There are white crochet inserts around the waist and on the shoulders. The waist inserts are lined with white cloth. There is a key-hole opening with a metal snap closure on the back. The neckline and key-hole are basted with white cloth.
    overall: Height: 13.130 inches (33.35 cm) | Width: 16.000 inches (40.64 cm)
    overall : cotton, thread, metal, dye

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The dress was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Sabina Heller.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:28:52
    This page:

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