Lillian's Story

After their return to Stryj a doctor came to treat my grandfather's mouth wounds. Upon seeing my Aunt Lillian he remarked that she didn't look Jewish and thought she could pass as a Christian and that they should get her false identity papers. My aunt decided to ask Mrs. Bilinska if she could use her daughter Jadwiga's birth certificate and Russian identity card and she agreed. My aunt replaced the picture on the identity card with her photograph. Although the stamps on the picture and the card did not match exactly, it was not too noticeable. Knowing she could not remain in Stryj pass and as a Christian she had to think of a place to go.

There was a school teacher in Gaje-Nisne named Irene Hajdrych whose husband, Wladyslaw, was high school teacher in Stryi. They were friends of my grandparents. In 1939 when the Germans came they moved to the western part of Poland so as not to be under Soviet rule when Poland was divided. My grandparents had the Hajdrych's address and my aunt decided to go there and hope they would take her in. She decided to go there unannounced so they would not have advance warning and could not turn her away. My grandparents would not let her go alone; and they convinced Mrs. Bilinska to go with her. Before they were to leave my aunt asked Mrs. Bilinska if she would let my grandmother hide in her home. She said yes and took her there that night. Later Mrs. Bilinska bought train tickets for both of them. My aunt took the Jewish armband off her coat and they left the the Jewish Quarter for the station on November 2, 1942.

Aunt Lillian after the war

My Aunt Lillian just after the war

They boarded the train and rode to the next stop where they would transfer to another train. While they were waiting for the next train in the station, German Railroad Policemen came looking for Jews. One of the policemen approached them wanting to see their papers. He did not notice that the stamp on the photograph did not match the one on the card. Then he accused Mrs. Bilinska of being a Jew. She told him that she was widow, that her husband had worked for the railroad in Stryj and that the policeman could call the station in Stryj to verify this. Boldly my aunt asked, "Why do you think she is Jewish?' He said, "Look at her. She looks like a Jew!" My aunt replied, "If you can spot a Jewish person by their looks, well I could say you look Jewish too!" Upon hearing this he let them go.

My aunt Lillian finally arrived at Mr. and Mrs. Hajdrych's home in Przedborz, small town near Kielce. She knocked their door. When Mrs. Hajdrych opened the door and saw her she was frightened. She had her young daughter there and did not want to speak in front of her, so she took my aunt and Mrs. Bilinska into another room. My aunt introduced Mrs. Bilinska, showed Mrs. Hajdrych the birth certificate and altered identity card and asked if she could stay. Mrs. Hajdrych agreed.

My aunt stayed with them until the end of the war. The Hajdrychs introduced her to friends as a cousin and to Mrs. Hajdrych's father-in-law as her niece. To help pay for her support she knitted skirts and sweaters. Mrs. Hajdrych worked as a supervisor of a kitchen for children of the poor and her husband taught high school illegally at home. My aunt went to church with them. Soon it became time to get German identity card. She went to the proper office and filled out the form in the name of Jadwiga Bilinska. She answered no to questions asking if either of her parents or grandparents were Jewish. She got her new identity card and she was proud that she was able to fool them. Through Mrs. Bilinska she was able to write to my grandparents and receive letters from them.

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