Born in Poland, Helena was one of eight children, all of whom were adults at the beginning of the war. After the German invasion in 1939, the family separated and Helen, along with several siblings and their father went to Lwów, which was under Soviet control at the time. In June 1941, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Lwów. Helena's father and brothers were sent to Belzec, where they died in the gas chambers. Helena and her husband were moved to Lesko and then on to Zamosc. Because Helena's husband was a doctor, the Germans sent them to a labor camp in Rokitna. They eventually escaped and made their way to Kraków, where they remained in hiding until the end of the war.
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