Żółkiewka, Lublin, Krasnystaw
Remembering Dr Edmund Wajszczuk and his Family - the Warsaw Insurgents
This part of the trip, the principal meeting in Zolkiewka (see map) and other meetings were connected with the person of my uncle, Dr Edmund Wajszczuk (0075) and his family (see).
After graduating from the Medical School, he worked in Zolkiewka probably since 1924 until 1938. After the big fire of 1938, the family moved to Krasnystaw. At the beginning of WWII a part of their apartment was taken over by the Gestapo, which started threatening the older children, in particular the oldest son Antoni.The family decided that the wife with children move to safety in Warsaw, where they would stay with her brother. Dr Edmund died suddenly on August 25, 1943 while alone at home in Krasnystaw, in unexplained circumstances. While in Warsaw, Antoni (0083), Barbara (0084) and youngest Wojciech (0085) got involved in the Underground Resistance activities, took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and all three were killed fighting (see). Only the oldest daughter Danuta (0076) survived, who was staying with her widowed mother.
In the Spring of 2004, we were contacted by a professor of the Lublin Polytechnical University, Andrzej Wac-Wlodarczyk, who was born in Zolkiewka and is a member of the Regional Society of Friends of Zolkiewka. Searching the Internet, he came across the name of Dr E. Wajszczuk and a note about his work in Zolkiewka (see excerpts from his letters). The Society is currently gathering archival materials about Zolkiewka and its inhabitants. A book "From Zolkiewka to Israel" authored by Chaim Zylberklang, a former Zolkiewka resident currently living in Israel, was published recently. He mentions there Dr Edmund Wajszczuk. The publication process in Poland was guided and aided by Mr and Mrs Julian Grzesik from Lublin. Also, the President of the Zolkiewka Friends Society, Mr Bohdan Kielbasa published recently a book describing its history and entitled "History of Zolkiewka and its environs - part I" (see book excerpts).
The Society took the initiative of organizing a special session devoted to the memory of Dr Edmund Wajszczuk and his family and invited members of the Wajszczuk Family and persons remembering dr Edmund and his family to participate. The meeting took place on Monday, August 5, 2004 in the Communal Culture Center in Zolkiewka. It was chaired by the Society President, Mr Bohdan Kielbasa and the participants included: persons who new and remembered the Wajszczuk family before the War (some of them of quite advanced age), among others - Mr Rudolf Brajerski and Mr Adolf Janski (President of the Community Council of the World Association of Soldiers of the Home Army [Armia Krajowa] in Zolkiewka) - contemporaries and collegues of Antoni (0083), Edward Podgorski - neighbour of Dr Edmund Wajszczuk who knew his oldest daughter Danuta (0076), Jan Wac - also a former neighbour od Dr Wajszczuk (and cousin of Prof. Wac-Wlodarczyk), members of the Society, representatives of local authorities and invited guests. Prof. Dr med. Hanna Chrzastek-Spruch arrived from Lublin - she was Dr Edmund's patient as a child. Local authorities were represented, among others by the Chairman of the Community Council - Mr Andrzej Bolesta and the Community Chief - Mr Andrzej Grabek. The Wajszczuk family was represented by Teresa Jaroszynska (0097) from Lublin - daughter of Dr Edmund's youngest brother, Dr Waldemar Wajszczuk (0087), born in Siedlce and currently living in the USA - son of his younger brother and Mr Pawel Stefaniuk - webmaster of the Internet edition of the Wajszczuk Family Tree and friend of the Family.
At the start, the hosts, new members and guests introduced themselves. Introductory remarks included brief presentation of the history of Zolkiewka and of its inhabitants, before, during and after the War and reminiscences of the Resistance Movement activities. Next, the Wajszczuk family was remembered and old photographs were shown. Mr Franciszek Czubiel from Lublin presented a copy of the Index Medicus (Rocznik Lekarski) from 1938 containing the names of Dr Edmund Wajszczuk (at that time already residing in Krasnystaw) and of his younger brother, Dr Lucjusz Wajszczuk (0086) from Siedlce. We were able to gather some new information, primarily concerning Dr Edmund, his daughter Danuta and oldest son Antoni (see). Mr Adolf Janski mentionrd that he was a classmate of Antoni ("Antos") since the first grade, they played together and Antos tought him to ride a bicycle (Dr Edmund owned 3 bicycles!) and also how to take photographs. Mr Janski also showed old pictures - we will have to copy them at a later date. Mr Jan Wac mentioned that Dr Edmund was a third full-time health service provider in Zolkiewka, after an earlier physician's assistant and then a physicianm, but the first one who had an opportunity to treat patients in a new wooden hospital buildng. Prof. Chrzastek-Spruch described her childhood experiences as dr Wajszczuk's patient.
Cousin Teresa remembered that during the winter of 1939/1940 she and her mother lived for several months with her uncle Edmund's family in Krasnystaw - her father, who was in September 1939 in the Polish Army, was able to escape imprisonment and was at that time on his way to the West, to join the Polish Armed Forces in the West. She remembered returning home to Lublin, several kilometers away, in a horse-drawn sleigh through the deep snow. She also revealed that "the uncle's family had to share their apartment with an unwelcomed tenant, a Gestapo man who was signing the execution orders of the Poles and frequently harassed Antos that he did not like his attitudes and that he should be working for the III Reich" - this fact hastened the family's decision to move the children to Warsaw! It is said that Dr Edmund was "a physician in ordinary of the Partisans". On the day of his death, he did not come, as usual in the morning, to the hospital. Worried co-workers went to his apartments and found him dead on the floor near the door, "as if trying to call for help from the outside". His wife, who was at that time in Warsaw with the children, had "a premonitory dream" - in her dream she was at home in Krasnystaw, the uncle called her from the outside, she looked out through the window and saw on the ground in the backyard a wrapped bundle, she went down, unwrapped it and saw a skull!
The persons present at the gathering in Zolkiewka did not remember well the youngest children, Barbara and Wojciech, but we were given addresses of persons from Krasnystaw, who were friends of Barbara, among others - the Niewidziajlo sisters in Krasnystaw and Krakow, Halina Kozlowska in Piotrkow Trybunalski and Dr Teresa Borkowska-Wojtowicz in Warsaw (see - book excerpts, memoirs). Mr Chaim Zylberklang, who was planning to attend in connection with the publication of second edition of his book, unfortunately could not attend.
After the meeting, some of the participants visited the cemetery, old school, site of the former Wajszczuk family house and property and afterwards - Mr and Mrs Kielbasa at their home, where we were received with traditional polish hospitality and treated with dinner.
click on the pictures to enlarge
From right: Andrzej Bolesta, Andrzej Grabek, Franciszek Czubiel, Bohdan Kielbasa.
From left: Edward Podgorski, Prof. dr Hanna Chrzastek-Spruch, Teresa Jaroszynska.
Adolf Janski and Rudolf Brajerski talking to Waldemar Wajszczuk.
Teresa Jaroszynska with Rudolf Brajerski and Adolf Janski.
Waldemar Wajszczuk in conversation with Mr Podgorski, Mr. Kielbasa (center) listens.
Old photographs - Adolf Janski attempts identification.
Jan Wac in front of former Wajszczuk property - the house was rebuilt after fire.
We drove from Zolkiewka, in the company of cousin Teresa, Prof. Chrzastek-Spruch and Pawel Stefaniuk, to a meeting at the home of Mr and Mrs Grzesik in Lublin. A few people were already there, among others Mrs Genowefa Sawicka with her son, a cardiologist (we discussed with him some profesional matters). Mrs Sawicka was a close friend of Prof. Wac-Wlodarczyk's mother, and having been born and raised not far from Zolkiewka, also knew the Wajszczuk family (see book excerpts).
Mr and Mrs Grzesik talked about their community involvement, among others they assisted Mr Chaim Zylberklang in publishing in Poland his book about Zolkiewka, about their shared efforts to improve the Polish-Jewish relation and described their war experiences. They described their trips in search of food, when they travelled by train, passing very close to the Nazi concentration and annihilation camp in Belzec. About the liquidation of the Jewish Ghetto in Lublin by the Nazis. Mr Grzesik remembered and recalled the sight and smell of burning Polish villages in the Ukraine during the War. Then, during the communist oppression, how they travelled and smuggled to the Ukraine and other Soviet Republics religious materials and the Holy Bible, to be delivered to the local population.
Next day in the morning, invited by Mr and Mrs Grzesik, we went to visit an exhibit in the "Brama Grodzka" Center in the Lublin Old Town. On display were the photographs and souvenirs depicting the old pre-war Lublin and a reconstructed model of the old Jewish Quarter, which does not exist any more - it was destroyed during the War. Looking at a model of the Lublin Castle in the exhibit and then looking at it "live" directly , it was difficult not to recall, remember and reflect on the fates of many members of the Wajszczuk Family, who were jailed there by the Russians under the Tsar, by the Nazis and then by the Communists!
Gathering at the Grzesiks in Lublin. From left: Genowefa Sawicka, her son Dr Jerzy Sawicki, Julian Grzesik (standing), Helena Grzesik and Waldemar Wajszczuk.
Mr Grzesik talks on the phone with Mr Chaim Zylberklang in Israel.
From left: Teresa Jaroszynska, Prof. Chrzastek-Spruch and Helena Grzesik.
"Brama Grodzka Center" in Lublin. Coordinator of the Program "Meeting of Cultures" - Witold Dabrowski explains the exhibit and model of the old Jewsh Quarter and Lublin Castle.
Lublin at night.
Renovated Grand Hotel Lublinianka.
From the Center, we drove with Mr and Mrs Grzesik and with Pawel Stefaniuk to visit the Niewidziajlo sisters in Krasnystaw. We were lucky to meet also the sister Alicja from Krakow, who was spending her vacation in Krasnystaw with her younger sister Wieslawa. Alicja was for a few years a schoolmate and friend of Barbara, her younger sister remembered Barbara very little. (More details about the four school friends are contained in the memoirs written by Halina Kozlowska (see).
Adding to her reminiscences written earlier (see),
Alicja stated that together with "Basia" they collected pictures of famous actresses to be placed in an album. (At a later date, she forwarded some old pictures). Both sisters remembered the youngest "Wojtek" as "a plump rascal, causing a lot of trouble for his mother, disappearing from home, climbing and hiding in the trees etc."
After returning to Lublin and dropping off Mr and Mrs Grzesik at their home, we visitied in the evening cousin Teresa, where we looked through and copied some old family pictures (and ate, of course)! Finally, already late at night, we visited Pawel's aunt and her family, where we were again treated with food, sweets and drinks! Many thanks for your hospitality!
Krasnystaw - Alicja Niewidziajlo (left) and her younger sister Wieslawa.
Krasnystaw - the meeting participants (photo taken by Pawel Stefaniuk).
Lublin - looking through old pictures with cousin Teresa.
Lublin - night visit at Pawel Stefaniuk's aunt.
Text and photographs:
Waldemar J. Wajszczuk and Paweł Stefaniuk