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The opening page of Anek’s first letter to Irena, 5 April 1943

Chylice, Spring – Summer 1943

 

 

In her 2014 written testimony submitted to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews Irena wrote:

 

Coming back to Anek, I should mention that he “did not look like”. That’s how people would speak then: “he does look like” or “he doesn’t look like”. Well, Anek did not look as a local person, rather some kind of a southerner. He was a handsome, slim, quite a tall man.[24]  And with this hellishly intelligent and educated for his age. Restrained, hated sentimentalism, rather cold and keeping his distance. Was enormously afraid of disappointments but once he befriended someone he would be able to open up. That’s what happened with us. He was not only open with me when we talked but … whenever it was necessary to convey information by mail he became so much fond of it that writing was for him … some kind of necessity. That’s how regular correspondence between us came into being which lasted even when we would meet each other almost daily as happened during the summer of 1943. Anek worked as a tutor to the 10-12 years old son of his employer, Mr. Miszczak, who had a small firm of cosmetics. Anek would design labels and flyers for these products but during the summer, when the Miszczaks moved to Chylice, a resort near Warsaw, Anek became a tutor to their rather undisciplined son named Waldemar.[25]

Irena was quite sure that Mr. Miszczak knew that Anek was a Jew and he even also employed a young Jewish woman, whose first name was Ewa, whom Anek knew from the ghetto and introduced to him, as a nanny for his baby daughter. If that was correct then Mr. Miszczak must have had quite a developed sense of humor because in an another testimony, Irena quoted Anek as saying that one day Miszczak instructed him to hide the nanny when next time German soldiers come to the villa because she was Jewish as it was Anek who, because of his fluency in German, would usually open the door to the soldiers who quite often searched the Chylice villas looking for Jews.[26]  

24 Video testimony by Irena Rybczynska-Holland, I/3:00, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.

25 Irena Rybczynska-Holland’s written testimony, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.

.26 Testimony by Barbara Krajewska-Ostrowska, USC, 28389.

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A typical house in Chylice, most probably quite similar to the one where Anek lived in 1943 (Source: Chylice 1939 – 1944, Znad Jeziorki; Miniatury historyczne)

In spite of the obvious danger, Irena kept Anek’s letters to her and in 2014 she deposited them with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.[27] The seven letters from Chylice, and an additional one written after Anek’s return to Warsaw, form an unique corpus of correspondence. Just imagine: a Jew in hiding living under a false name with forged papers

writes letters to his Polish friend (or maybe even girlfriend, at least from Anek’s perspective) describing the inner state of mind of an intellectual who is forced to teach an unruly child and sit for hours in a kitchen with nothing better to do than watch the maid clean and cook. Except for the first letter, a large part of which is devoted to his charge, Waldemar, there is little in the Chylice letters about the outside world. Instead they heavily dwell upon Anek’s inner world and describe at length his fears, frustrations, ennui and thoughts. The anonymous translator hired by the Museum to translate the letters into English, made a very good job but still the letters are not easy to read, mostly because of their author’s outstanding erudition, his virtuosic command of the Polish language, his constant allusions to current events, to the ancient history, and his frequent usage of foreign expressions.

In his letter to Irena of 3 June 1943 (which is the only one with a return address: “Kujawianka”, Mickiewicza 18) Anek wrote:

 

You must forgive me the gloomy tone of this letter, but were it not for the possibility of sharing the burden of this life’s misery with someone – existence would be completely unbearable. When, unfortunately, one still has "pre-war" emotionality and "pre-war" sensitivity to such things as: crime, falsehood and moral meanness, a man who is denied the right to life, whose human dignity is being trodden into mud, who is being hunted like an animal, living among meanness, rudeness and cowardice – he must find some sort of moral refuge, some permanent point among everything that he has considered, throughout his life, to be the only truth, and that is now collapsing into rubble. In general, the internal (I mean the M[iszczak] family) and external situation are growing more and more difficult to bear. As a result of certain incidents – I have experienced it more than once – I succumb to a very unpleasant sensation of being in a tightening net. It can be represented in yet another way: water that comes up closer and closer from all sides and threatens with overflowing. There’s hardly a day without a nervous struggle. Every time you luckily find the way out of a situation, the tiring question comes back: "Okay, but what about the next time ?!". "In my youth" (I could actually write it without the quotation marks: I assure you with no emphasis that, in fact, I am already very, very old); in my youth then, playing kidlike philosophy, I would claim, with a hint of pride, to be unable to nurse any strong feelings. That was, in fact, true: brought up in harmony and balance, both spiritual and material, living, so to speak, in the lukewarm water of emotional well-being, I looked at people chasing after some kind of "want" with the contempt of a sceptic. Now that I am simply denied the right to life, I know what it means to "want" and not only want, but also desire with every fibre, with every cell of one’s being. I want to live!

27 The original letters in Polish can be seen at https://wmuzeach.pl/kolekcje/muzeum-historii-zydow-polskich-polin_1/listyarnolda-majorka-z-1943-roku-_245. The English translation is to be found in the Museum.

The Miszczaks and their son, and his charge, Waldemar are described at length in Anek’s first letter to Irena of 5 April 1943:

 

The parents: simple people, unpretentious, unfussy, and therefore nice – especially him – not too intelligent – especially her – but honest, modest, hardworking. They are completely defenceless and helpless towards children (there’s also a little daughter); they behave as if their begetting was a necessary, but somewhat inappropriate fact, the consequences of which they are not able (indeed they are not) to cope with. The boy is naturally good, sometimes he has quite nice and noble impulses, but [he received] the street upbringing … hence early awareness of the facts of life, complete lack of illusions about people and phenomena …, wealthy parents (nouveaux riches): all this made W. a specific type: faint intelligence – cleverness and wangling ; fake "Warsaw" politeness – lack of Kinderstube [good upbringing], complete lack of fantasy – a strong tendency to lie, spoof, tell "gut busters"; cowed, shy with strangers – arrogant, insolent, using a specific tone of superiority and conceit (rich daddy!) towards his own people. In addition to all that, a stirring inferiority complex originating from his small stature (physically, in general, not too well developed) and sparse hair.

In August 1943 in Chylice Anek accidentally met a Jewish couple Wanda and Zygmunt Weinreich whom he knew from Warsaw. Like himself, the Weinreichs escaped from the ghetto, lived for a while on the “Aryan” side in Warsaw and now posed as vacationers in Chylice. But with their financial means almost exhausted and the approaching end of the summer vacations, which would make their continued residence in Chylice quite suspicious, they urgently needed help. The situation was further engraved by Wanda’s pregnancy. Anek arranged a meeting between the Weinreichs and his Polish friends, Irena and the two Ostrowski sisters, which took place on the brink of a clay pit on the outskirts of Chylice.

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The clay pit near Chylice where Anek arranged the meeting between his Polish friends and the Weinreichs. The pit was very popular with the young people of Chylice and Anek spent there some happy hours with Irena and others (Source: okolicekonstancina.pl).

 

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At the clay pit in Chylice, from the left to the right: Barbara Ostrowska, Krystyna Ostrowska and Irena Rybczynska. Anek, most probably, referred to this photo in his letter to Irena of 7 September 1943 (Courtesy of Dr. Peter Feuerman, Wanda’s son)

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Wanda and her son, Peter, on a post-war photograph

The Ostrowski sisters immediately decided to help and accommodated the Weinrichs in a small empty gardener’s house on the estate of their aunt Brunona Siedlinska in Chylice. The entire group took care of the young couple by providing food and other necessities and, in due course, by taking Wanda to a hospital in Warsaw where she delivered a baby-boy.[28] Irena, Barbara, Krystyna and Brunona were recognized as “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem for the help and assistance extended to the Weinreichs.

Anek’s letter of 7 August 1943 provides some additional information about his life with the Miszczaks in Chylice.

 

In general, for more or less 2 weeks, i.e. from the time when we started having such wonderful weather, I have absolutely no time for myself, performing the various duties of a teacher, governor, graphic artist, porter and water carrier (and also a "milk carrier"– or maybe better a "milk roundsman"?). Today I have breathed a sigh of relief: there is a pleasant coolness, a bit of rain falls, Waldemar is calmer due to the weather and, as is the case with him, a bit "moody" and actually, besides studying, there is not much to do with him. A moment ago, with real satisfaction, I wished him a good trip to the priest: upon the request of W.’s mother and a team of aunts, the Reverend is to have a second private conversation with him today, which, in the opinion of these worthy but very naive women, is to open his eyes to the absolute paganism of his conduct. He has returned unexpectedly quickly at this very moment. I gave him assignments for Monday. May he train his mind and let me talk to you.

28 Wanda Feuerman (formerly Weinreich nee Samstein) to Yad Vashem, 12 February 1989, Yad Vashem Archives, M.31.2/4106/1.

In his last, seventh, letter from Chylice written on 18 August 1943 Anek again described his loneliness and boredom. The only other matter worth mentioning was an accident involving a “crazy cyclist”.

 

My Darling, Thank you for your letter. I thought we’d see each other. I was waiting for you during these 3 days (today is Wednesday) at the station – in vain. At the same time: I have not heard from Mum so I am a bit sad. In general, boredom in the face of bad weather and lack of activity, except for lessons which, thanks to Wald[emar]’s strenuous efforts, are reduced to a minimum. Nothing special happens outside or inside. A crazy cyclist ran over me with great impetus today. He was riding so fast that when he crashed into me, he threw me several metres away. I got violently thrown upon a fence; fortunately, apart from the general shock and minor scratches, I did not suffer any other injuries. He has just torn my shirt badly (some kind of fate with these shirts, and you are joking that I am a fatalist!), so I have a household problem again.

The last letter to Irena was written on 7 September 1943, after Anek’s return to Warsaw:

Immediately after my arrival, I started to take care of the "current" matters, after which I visited my friends and acquaintances one by one, feeling a bit of a fear before each visit, whether I would still find them... Fortunately, everything is generally fine, except for a tragic accident involving a man very close to me and his wife, something I had already known in Ch[ylice].[29] The case of my work with M. has not been settled definitively yet, even though it has already been talked about so many times. He is a good man, but his goodness is very accidental, both in terms of the choice of people upon whom he bestows it and its "implementation". At the same time, he likes to be asked, which, unfortunately, I don’t like. I was supposed to start yesterday, but the lack of light made it impossible. It is a triviality that needs a little bit of repair, but he does not remember, and I cannot remind him about it. Anyway, I started to practice the work a bit yesterday. It is not philosophy, but requires constant attention and focus, all the more that the machine is very ancient. PS. If you want to please me, send me the photos we took at the clay pit pond.

29 Most probably Anek refers here to his cousin Ela Majorek and her husband Ekew (Jakob) Salomonowicz who both perished in the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943 (See: Claim for Restitution by Shmuel Schalomi (formerly Salomonowicz), Landesarchiv Berlin, B Rep. 025-03, Nr. 3503/59). On many occasions Ekew was Szabsie’s business partner and both families were close together in Kalisz.

The new work Anek refers to was, as it seems, not only designing labels for Mr. Miszczaks cosmetic products but also printing them. Anek gave some of his labels to Irena who, in turn, donated them together with his letters to the Museum. 

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Labels designed by Anek for Mr. Miszczak’s cosmetics (Source: Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw)

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The September letter also provides some information about Anek’s mother.

 

I got a letter from my mother yesterday. A law of series, because the mother’s pupil is "a woman who knows what she wants" too. On the day of her arrival, she told my Mother with great openness that she did not like studying, that she did not like playing, and that she had not yet read any book to the end. I sincerely feel sorry for my old lady. Well, what can one do...That would be enough for now.

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Irena’s photo of 20 October 1943 which is to be found in Anek’s album. Anek presented his own rendition of the photo to Irena who included it in her testimony for the USC

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