Coming home to Milanowek

Perhaps she tasted the sweet wild strawberries that grew in the field next to the old Villa?  Maybe she sat under the shade of the old apple tree with her 11 month old child, watching the feathered heads of  rye grasses bowing down pushed by winds blowing across the surrounding fields.

 This place of refuge outside Warsaw was found by a Polish friend, Mr. Talikowski. He risked his life for the family, smuggling in money and food to the Warsaw ghetto.  In his home there was always a hiding place for  Zdislaw as he moved himself dangerously  in and out of the ghetto to see his wife and child, his mother and his in-laws.

Far from the ghetto she eventually escaped, for Irena perhaps this house near Milanowek provided some comfort, especially after her parents, brother and other family were hauled off to Treblinka. 
Not for long.  One spring day in May 1943 the Gestapo came and shot her and two other women.  Someone suspected.  Someone led the Germans to the kill.

Yesterday we went back to that place.   Yes, we cried for Irena and the other women who were shot that day in May.  But, we joined together with the family who had lived in the Villa, to say thank you to them, and to start a new narrative.  We met the Granddaughter of the brave woman who hid Jews and members of the underground  (A.K) in her large home.   Raised by her Grandma in the Villa, a few months ago, she wrote about the senseless killings her Grandma told her about and posted the touching story on a Jewish history website in Poland.  She included a picture of the stone she'd placed at the bottom of the garden in 2000, marking where the women had been buried by the villagers    A few months ago, I accidentally found her story.  I told my mother about the discovery  just before we traveled to Poland.  My mother wanted to come here, to face her past, and to say thank you.   

I have another new friend now in Poland. Iwona is her name,  a new sister, bound to us by blood.
We loved her....
She welcomed my mother to her home, to my Babcia’s hiding place.
We loved hearing about the brave underground connections in the family that most likely led to Irena and Zdislaw being sent to this safe house by Mr. Talikowski.  We loved her Grandma too for her brave fighting spirit and for her willingness to risk her life to hide those who were in danger.

We look forward to a future with our new friend and her family.

Woytek, Iwona & Joasia


  1. The evening, in the photo we say good-bye to each other, the train is coming, and you, Karen, are taking this photo in a big hurry. Then you and Joanna left. Woytek, Tom and I felt a little abandoned...
    However spirits of Irena, Marysieńka, 3 Zofias and Mrs M will stay with us here.
    We fell in love with you, too.
    Absolut bless you,
    your new sister Iwona


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