A poor, Catholic farmer's religious duty

By
January 17, 2017 09:57

Stanislaw Grocholoski managed to save 12 Jews in occupied Poland.




Maria and Stanisław Grocholski

Maria and Stanisław Grocholski. (photo credit:YAD VASHEM)

Stanislaw Grocholoski’s Christian duty to save 15 Jews during the Second World War was an extremely dangerous and secretive mission.

He didn’t reveal the secret to his neighbors, his friends and even to his children, fearing that once it would be found out that he was helping the Jewish people, not only would the Nazis be running after him, but his fellow Poles would also take the opportunity to retaliate.

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With the courage and faith that he showed, Grocholski earned himself a miracle or two, as the Engelberg family seemed destined to be revealed, as was the case during the cold Polish winter.

“When virgin white snowdrifts piled up on all the other roofs of the houses in their tiny village, Przeworsk, the roof of the Grocholski’s house remained naked and exposed,” Sheryl Silver Ochayon, whose parents were saved by Grocholski, wrote after hearing the story of her family’s savior. “The body heat of the 15 Jews – the contraband in the attic – melted all the snow. Had anyone looked up and understood, the Grocholskis would have been slaughtered.”

Grocholski’s duty began in the summer of 1942, after the Nazis ordered the Jews of Urzejowice in southeastern Poland to report to the local train station for “resettlement.”

Taking the advice of an officer who had been billeted to the Engelberg family’s house during the Nazi occupation, and who is remembered for being on good terms with the Jewish family and even playing chess with the father, the Engelbergs decided to ignore the Nazi decree.

Immediately, the family went into hiding, running from field to field, seeking someone to help them. But with no one opening up their homes, they were forced to hide under haystacks, nourishing themselves on whatever they could find in nearby farms and orchards. Grocholski, a poor, Catholic farmer who lived in the area, heard the rumor that the family was on the run. He marched around the fields day and night looking for them.

“You are in trouble, and I have come to help you,” Sally Frishberg remembers Grocholski saying when he found them. Grocholski had remembered the Engelbergs well, playing with the Jewish children in his youth.

He took it upon himself to visit them in their hiding spot in the field on a regular basis, updating them on the Nazis’ movements and bringing them whatever nourishment he could find in war-stricken Poland.

But Grocholski was asked to do more – to take them inside his home. With an amazing amount of courage and faith in God, he and his wife, Maria, acquiesced to the call, bringing them soup and potatoes and taking care of what would turn out to be 15 souls in his attic.

Conditions were nonetheless tough in the attic.

“My grandmother watched her children fading away,” Ochayon recalls. “Her smallest child, my mother’s baby sister, was slowly dying of hunger, and her crying endangered everyone else. Ultimately, the baby was swaddled in a blanket, carried down out of the attic in the middle of the night, and left on the steps of the local church in the hope that she might be saved – a hope that was not realized.”

When the Russians liberated Poland in 1944, only 12 of the original 15 had survived.

Grocholski felt he was just doing his religious duty. "You must never tell a soul that I am the man who saved you," he told them on the day of the liberation, according to Frishberg.

After they returned to their hometown they found out that they were the only ones who survived. “Imagine if more of them had his courage,” she said.

It was only 40 years later, after his death, that Grocholski's heroism finally began to unravel.

Yad Vashem recognized Stanisław Grocholski as Righteous Among the Nations, and on January 17, 2012, his family attended a ceremony in the Polish town of Rzeszow where the Grocholski family received the honor on his behalf.

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