Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maurice Chandler - October 3, 1993

Assuming Polish Identity

In the barn? Were you still sleeping in the barn?

No, no, no, no. By that time I moved out of the barn. I slept in the attic, you know, because, you know, in the summer came--I felt good and it was all behind me. I survived uh, typhus. I don't know, but I survived it without any uh, ill-effects because I understand some people go deaf from it. One fellow that I knew lost sight in an eye because the fever is so tremendous. But, obviously, I was chosen to survive, so I had to survive. So, I survived. That night, this young man shows up who was her nephew and he worked in the county records office--he was a clerk and he brought me that birth certificate.

What's the name on the birth certificate?

The name of the person is Zdzislaw ???.

And you became Joseph?

I became Zdzislaw ???. Now, that man died. He said, "This is a person that lived. I don't know old he was, he's dead." He says, "You're going to be him." I said, "Are you kidding?" I says, "How can I do this?" He says, "Look, you speak a beautiful Polish." By that time, my Polish, you know, took on like--I was like a chameleon in every situation. I took on the coloring. I took on the mannerisms. I took on the mode of speech. I just blended right in. So she says, "Look," she says, "you don't look Jewish. Your Polish is excellent and you can work and we're going to teach you--we're going to get you this piece of paper and we're going to teach you, you know, uh, the prayers and catechism." So we sat up until about 3 o'clock in the morning and they taught me, you know, the prayers of night, the morning prayers. You know, this, and how to cross myself, you know, this stuff and so on and so on. And she says, "This is it." She says, "Go", and she said, "if you're in Warsaw--if you ever go back to Warsaw, and you need help," she says, "I have a cousin that lives in a place outside Warsaw, outside Praga, called Saska Kępa." She says, "You go to her at this and this address, and tell her that I said for her to help you and she'll help you."

And this woman's name again?

Which woman?

The one giving you the instructions?

Yeah, her name was Helena Jagodzinska. And then, she, you know, that was her maiden name. In the meantime--in between time--while I worked there, she married this guy uh, from the same village and her name became Helena Urban, you know, she married this Urban. He came back from--he was a prisoner in Germany--a Polish soldier. He was an anti-Semite. He gave me a hard time. And I never described to you what kind of work I put in on that farm. I mean, I worked. Sidney, I worked. I mean, I could lift buildings. There was nothing that was too heavy for me. I was so such a willing worker, you know, because I knew that my life depended on it--my survival. I had to be useful and I had to earn my keep. I mean they paid you nothing--just, just let you sleep and feed you.

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