National Day of Remembrance of Poles Rescuing Jews under German Occupation-Sister Bogumiła (Zofia) Makowska
March 24th is recognized by Poland as the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Rescuing Jews under German Occupation
Testimony of Tamy Lavee** on February 12, 1988 in Haifa, Isreal.
"…All I remember from my childhood is that in the convent there were these very long corridors. I remember the nuns who were good and always smiling. I also remember that one day some people came to the convent to take me. It happened that it was the Szymankski’s who adopted me …then came two men to take me away. Mrs. Szymanski didn’t want to let me go and cried and when they told her she could get another child she said that a child is not a glove that is removed from the hand and given away. In spite of it they took me away and then I learned I was a Jewish child."
Testimony of Sister Bogumiła Makowska, FMM July 16,1985
"During the war I was a formation tutor (at the orphange) in Zamość. In the 1940’s, a two or three-year-old child was left at our convent on Żdanowski Street. She was nicely dressed and around her neck she had a small bag with a note: Wanda, baptized.
Sometime toward the end of the 70’s I received a telephone call from Israel asking if there was in the convent index a record of a foundling by the name of Wanda. I replied that, for sure, such a girl child was left with us and in the archive there is still the piece of paper that had hung around her neck when she was left on our doorstep. According to the notes in the archives, shortly after Wanda was left with us, a woman came to work for us peeling potatoes and took an interest in the child and the sisters suspected she was the mother. However, Wanda was taken by a family from Izbica for raising. [After the war] in 1947 a Jewish man claimed that she was his granddaughter. A sister went with him to Izbica and he took Wanda away from her adoptive family. The matter ended up in the courts. In the later notes is a comment that Wanda was taken to the Jewish center in Łodź.
After a while I received a letter from Israel in which the author wrote: “It is me, I’m the Wanda but my name is now Tamara. I was adopted by a Jewish woman but I want to know my history and I’m asking your help. It was difficult for me with my mother. That I wasn’t her daughter I learned only after I married and gave birth to my children…where did I come from, what is my background and who were my parents."
[A nun from the convent recalls that she ran into the woman who had peeled potatoes at the convent during the war at the bus stop and that the woman was going to Skierbieszów]
Sister Bogumiła continues:
"I wrote to the priest in Skierbieszów to announce from the pulpit that I’m seeking the woman who during the war left a child by the name of Wanda with the sisters. After a while, Maria Pawelec came to see me and told me Wanda’s story."
I’m not her mother. I met Wanda’s mother at the market. She was selling something. I was selling something. We got friendly and she told me her situation. She came from Bydgoscz. The Germans killed her husband in Włocławek and she and her son were fleeing east. Wanda was just on the way. She was pregnant. She gave birth to her on the train. That was 1939. She arrived in Zamość and tried to make a living buying and selling. At this moment I don’t remember her last name.
There was an incident when the Germans caught her children and took them to the children’s camp in Zamość. She managed in some way to get them back but then she was afraid because it was apparent that she was Jewish and these were Jewish children. She asked me to take Wanda in the hope that at least she would survive. She decided to stay with her son. After a while they were taken to Izbica and shot. I stayed with Wanda in Zamość and took care of her. One day the Germans came to see me asking who is this child. I told them it was my niece and Wanda, when questioned, confirmed that I was her aunt. But from that time on I was afraid for the child and for myself. I came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to leave Wanda with the sisters. I opened the gate to the convent front yard, gave the child a push and in that way, no one knew who or what…a foundling. Wanting to know what was happening with the child I came to the sisters offering to peel potatoes.
[Sister Bogumiła sent all this information to Tamy Lavee and a correspondence began. Tamy Lavee visited Poland to thank her and the congregation for saving her life]
According to YadVashem: The nun, Zofia-Bogumiła Makowska, who knew the child was Jewish, never revealed her true identity to anyone, and looked after her until the end of the war.
On September 21, 1993, through the efforts of Tamar Lavi, Yad Vashem recognized the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and Zofia-Bogumiła Makowska as Righteous Among the Nations.
The link can be found here https://righteous.yadvashem.org/?searchType=all&language=en&itemId=4044030&ind=27
More stories of rescue in Poland can be found on the website of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews at https://sprawiedliwi.org.pl/en/stories-of-rescue/list/A?role=90
*Please note that there are inconsistencies as to the spelling of the name. This spelling from Yad Vashem.
**From the book: Medytacje Nad Życiem a Świetle Doświadczeń II Wojny Światowej[Meditation on Life in Light of World War II Experiences] by S. Irena Murawska FMM 2019
Sincerest thanks to the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary for permission to use photo of S. Makowska.
The drowning of Marzanna is one of the few Old Slavonic rites that is still cultivated in various regions of Poland today. According to folklore Marzanna is a Slavic goddess who symbolized death. A remnant of pagan times, it is still a custom celebrated by Polish children to take joy in the upcoming springtime, the beginning of the rebirth of the earth after the lifelessness of winter. In this ancient custom winter is drowned or burnt and there is rejoicing in new life as shrubs and trees begin to green and flower.
The symbolic getting rid of winter generally takes place on the first calendar day of spring, March 21(this year March 19). The oldest writings about Marzanna in Poland comes in the 15th century when Jan Długosz wrote: “In some Polish villages on the 4th Sunday (Laetare) in Lent, the people place an effigy of Marzanna on long poles and then throw it into the nearest bog.” This year it falls on March 22.
Marzanna is celebrated by making a straw effigy or doll made from sheaves of grain or straw, rags or material in the shape of an old woman. Most often, the doll or effigy is of a size that can be mounted on a stick, which makes it easier to hold up in the air by small hands. Most often, schoolchildren and supervising adults participate in the ritual by making the effigy together and on the appropriate day, sometimes accompanied by the entire village, is taken to a local stream, river or lake and drowned. In other parts of Poland, she is burnt. Very often everyone returned to the village with a green branch as a symbol of spring.(Photo: Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe)
This is a photo of a simple type of Marzanna I did with a group of schoolchildren and their parents a few years ago. The structure for the effigy was a wooden spoon, the arms and clothes made with corn husks but almost anything that can readily be glued can be used. The children clamored to draw the face they wanted on the front of the spoon with crayons or colored markers. The parents assisted and encouraged where needed. As we worked together, we talked about what we liked and didn’t like about winter and how did we know the weather was changing and what we liked best about spring. What was their favorite flower? We looked at pictures of snowdrops beginning to bloom under the snow and bears coming out of hibernation. I was able to share some Polish folklore and tradition. The children got to choose colors and glue together their own particular Marzanna (so creative!) and took her home as a sign that winter was over and spring was here.
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.