Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Passing as Polish Gentile

One of the things that we might go back to that uh, was really quite interesting, is what your life was like after leaving the monastery. There's so much to remember, I know, but...

Yes, yes.

Are there episodes that you could remember?

Yes, a very interesting episode was uh, I had arranged--always had places to go, this time with Arthur Tadeusz...


And the person wasn't home. I came to the building and I was sitting in the stairs waiting for her. It was a single woman and uh, the apartment belonged once to a Polish uh, policeman who was on the wanted list. I didn't know that. It didn't matter anyway. Uh, I was sitting several hours waiting for her. I didn't have diapers to change. I remember such a thing. I took off my slip, whatever I had under me, to change the baby. And I was sitting on the stairs and waiting, waiting. I thought eventually she would show up, midnight or whenever. I didn't have where to go anyway. I was sitting in the stairs. I went--as a matter of fact, I went to the stairs to the very top, to the ceiling, because people walking in and out and see uh, a woman with a child was sitting on the stairs. Eventually she came so she took me in and I, I--when I lived there after a week or so, came the um, German police. They came, it was the middle of the night, three of them. They came in to look for that policeman, who I had mentioned, that was uh, his apartment and he was on the wanted list. Uh, by the way they had custom to check everybody who was in the apartment. So, I get up and I was here Arthur Tadeusz in my arms and they were standing with those rifles. I can remember one was smiling because Arthur thought it's a toy, so he touched the rifle. At that time, I had already different papers, I wasn't anymore Dobrowska because every time you move you had to have different name. And then I had a paper that I was somebody from the east. We took it from the east because they couldn't check on the east. The east was uh, already recaptured by the Russians...


...so they wouldn't be able to check, it was safer. But it was not such a Kennkarte, they call the ID, it was just a paper, saying that my name is so and so--I don't remember what it was; maybe Skotniczka or some other--is from such and such place, from, from the east--I really don't remember the place.

Where did you get these papers from?

From the underground. They always, they always--but the papers were, if somebody would look at them really close, they would know. Yes and they didn't have any ground, and uh, there wasn't any certificate--birth certificate or something. Because I know that some people had certificates after dead people. But, in this case, it was just a paper. And they turned to me and they say, "Why don't you go to the police and get yourself a ???" That means permission to leave and you'll get a Kennkarte. But in order to go there, that was, you remember that was--it was nice he went with me--you have to have somebody who will witness that who knows me. That was a friend, he was also a doctor or dentist, a student of medicine. He was a friend of my husband. And he went with me to the police and he said that he knows me and he knew me, from my childhood and my name is so-and-so, so that was enough. They gave me the--but this was almost the end. It was in '44 already, I don't remember exactly the date. But at the very end, I got very official papers.

But you were still on the run at this point?

Oh, yes. I still was because I didn't have places to go, I lived in several places. But uh, still went back to that apartment, to that police apartment for another few weeks. And then I have to run again. But uh, the liberation, I survived the liberation, in that apartment of that um, person, I told you that young woman, who was half-Jewish.


Her name was then Sophia Izala. After the war, she married uh, one of the officials--what was, what was it called uh, ??? but he's not alive anymore. She helped me, she really helped me a lot. And I lived in her apartment.

You lived with her there?

Through the liberation.

Are there other episodes during those few months in Kraków while you were moving from place to place, that come to your mind?

I wasn't prepared for everything and didn't think of it. I remember one place I lived outside of Kraków; it's Zwierzyniec and some other places. But um, no, I really don't remember such things because there's just too many of them.

It's one right after the other?

I couldn't stay any longer than--because nobody wanted to keep me with a child. It was six months that I could stay at most, two weeks, a week uh, most of...

You remember asking people?

Most of the people didn't know who I was. Very rarely somebody know. I remember once I lived in, in, in uh, an apartment where a Gestapo man lived uh, and his--he was away for vacation or something. She took me in into her small little room, in the old country we had separate rooms for servants. I slept, sleep, slept with her in the same bed. And one night he came unexpectedly home and he had a huge dog and she was scared--so was I--this was before he unlocked the door. And that dog uh, she covered me with a blanket over my head and as soon as I could walk out, I just ran away. This is really--to live in, in a Gestapo's home.

So, another escape through a keyhole.

Another escape, yeah. Well, I think Bolkosky was interested in those times after the war.

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