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Maria and Stanislaw Grocholski

Stanislaw and Maria Grocholski Poland

Urzejowice, Poland… Summer 1942 – Stanisław and Maria Grocholski and Leon and Tsivia Engelberg and their daughters, Sala (Sally), Manya (Miriam), Laya and Feige, resided in the village of Urzejowice in southeast Poland. The Grocholski family, which included four young children, lived on a small farm on the outskirts of Przeworsk.

Living in the same village were Tsivia‘s five brothers: Yitzhak Gamss, who was married to Leah and had three children, Mordechai, Ben-Zion, Avraham-Chaim and Nachum. During the first years of the German occupation, the life of the Jewish families did not change much. When the homes of the village inhabitants were billeted by the German army, three officers were put in the Engelbergs’ house. One of these officers, by the name of Arnold, was very friendly. He used to play chess with Leon, but at the same time warned him not to be complacent and that danger was looming.

As predicted, the situation changed dramatically in the summer of 1942, when the Jews of the village were ordered to present themselves at the railway station. Leon heeded Arnold’s advice and decided not to comply with the orders. The six members of his family, together with the Gamss family – a total of 11 persons – fled to the fields to hide. Their former neighbors refused to help them, and they were forced to remain outside, sleeping under the stars, and living on any fruit they could find as well as food they stole from farms in the vicinity.

One night they were contacted by Stanisław Grocholski, a childhood friend of Tsivia and Yitzhak. Having lost his parents at an early age, Grocholski fondly remembered the home of Tsivia and Yitzhak’s parents, where he was always welcomed and well taken care of. Now his Jewish friends were in dire straits, he had decided to search for them and offer them his assistance. For several weeks, Grocholski showed up at their hiding place every night, bringing them food and telling them about German activity in the area. Despite his help, living in the fields for such an extended period of time was becoming unbearable, and Tsivia pleaded with Grocholski to find them a better hiding place. She told him she would give his wife Maria all of her jewelry and other valuables if she agreed to shelter them. Maria and Stanisław could use her jewelry to purchase food and other items should they need.

Stanislaw went home and spoke with his wife; she was very afraid for her own children but ultimately agreed to hide the eleven Jews.  On a moonless night, the extended family set out to the Grocholski farm. The two couples and seven children were placed in a dark and narrow attic. They had to keep completely quiet because the Grocholskis’ children were not told about their presence. At night, after the household had gone to sleep, Stanisław would climb the ladder and bring them food and water and empty the buckets that served as chamber pots. Maria cooked what little food there was, usually beans or potatoes, to keep the families alive.

As the Grocholskis did not want to draw attention by pumping large quantities of water from the village well, the fugitives lived on a very small quantity of water and were plagued by thirst throughout the summer. When the weather turned cold, they were moved to an animal shed so that they could keep warm. That winter, Grocholski informed Tsivia that her four brothers were hiding in a nearby forest. Tsivia begged him to permit her brothers to join them, knowing that they would not be able to survive the freezing weather out in the open. Grocholski agreed, and led them to his home, bringing the number of hiding Jews to 15.

Conditions were very difficult, and the fugitives suffered terribly. One of Yitzhak’s sons, Nachum, died. Shortly afterwards, his wife Leah passed away. Grocholski secretly buried them at night. When little Feige Engelberg’s health deteriorated, it was decided to take her and leave her at the gates of the local church, hoping that someone would take her in. As far as it is known, she did not survive. The 12 remaining refugees continued to struggle for survival in their hiding place.

One day, the Engelberg’s oldest daughter, Sala, peeked through the cracks in the attic wall and saw Maria Grocholski feeding the chickens and muttering: “You only cause me trouble. One day I will put poison in your food and rid myself of all of you.” Understanding that Maria meant the Jewish family, not the chickens, they were filled with panic. At night, Mordechai Gamss told Stanisław what they had heard. Stanisław explained that his wife was scared for her family. Maria was pregnant with her fifth child and several neighboring families had by then been denounced to the Germans for hiding Jews. These Polish farmers were murdered along with the Jews they were hiding. Stanislaw realized that it was his Christian duty to help them, the incident was never mentioned again and the Jews remained hidden with the Grocholski family until liberation.

The area was liberated by the Soviet army in August 1944. When they left their hiding place, the refugees were hardly able to walk. Free again, they were faced with violent antisemitic reactions by the locals. Stanisław implored his Jewish wards not to reveal to anyone that he had hidden them. This request was repeated many years later by his daughter, Zofia. On June 21, 2011, Yad Vashem recognized Stanislaw Grocholski as Righteous Among the Nations.

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