Every second counts – Helena and Stanisław Podrzycki, Końskie
Helena and Stanisław Podrzycki lived in Końskie during the war, they had three children ages from 7 to 11: Małgorzata, Magdalena and Bogdan.
My grandfather was an attorney, before the war he would represent Jews in court litigations. Dr. Abraham Kapilman was one of those represented by my grandfather – recalls Roksana Dejmanowska-Zemko, Helena and Stanisław Podrzyckis’ granddaughter. Dr Kapilman was married to a doctor and they had two children: 16-year-old Grzegorz and 8-year-old Bronia. Sometimes he escaped from the ghetto and visited the Podrzyckis. He brought medical books and other items which had been taken away and then sold by his son during his war. To this day, memories written by Helena Podrzycka just after the war have been preserved. Partly typed and partly hand-written diaries inform that she was not satisfied with these visits “owing to the capital punishment threat”. She also writes: I put so much work and heart into every meeting with the Jews. I urged them to run away, hide in the forest. They did not have the courage to leave the ghetto. They believed the last minute, they still counted on Germans’ benevolence…
The air was packed with nervousness and tension shortly before the deportation of the Końskie Jews; Lithuanian, brutal shaulis [rifleman units] units which served for the Nazi Germany were brought to the ghetto. On 2 November 1942, Helena Podrzycka stayed home alone with her children. Her husband went to Radom for a lawsuit. Suddenly a loud knock on the door. Abraham Kapilman, pale face, stood in the doorway. He rushes in, on his bended knees urges me: rescue us! Help! The ghetto has been surrounded! My Belinka … she must live! Ma’am, for all Christian holiness, go and get my child! – quotes the memories of her great-grandmother Slobodanka Zemko. He grabbed the handle with one hand and held my hand with the other. He was struggling. He muttered to himself: every second counts …
Helena Podrzycka, ignoring the deadly threat went to the ghetto to save the little Bronia. When she was in, she met many people who knew her husband. They looked and if asking if they could run away. Helena remembers that involuntarily she nodded in affirmation. She and Bronia, upon leaving the ghetto were stopped and surrounded by Germans. Ma’am, Broncia is afraid – she heard the voice of a girl with remarkably Semitic features. Cool-blooded, she said that she had an ill child and came to get matches. Unexpectedly, this version was confirmed by the interpreter who cooperated with the Germans. Germans let them go. I felt that a miracle happened – Helena Podrzycka wrote about this event.
Meanwhile, 11 Jews including a woman with an 8-month-old child had already been in her hose waiting. These were those she she nodded in affirmation. They escaped from the ghetto. Helena Podrzycka arranged a hideout in the basement for them. Only the mother with the child and Bronia stayed in the house.
The Germans deported about 6,000 Jews from Końskie. After some time, an announcement was issued. Those who survived could come into the open. They were supposed to work for the Germans. Helena Podrzycka advised against. She told the Jews in the hiding that it was Germans’ trick. They would not listen. In January 1943, the Jews were taken to Szydłowiec and sent to extermination camps.
After 2 weeks spent at Podrzyckis’, Bronia Kapilman was transferred to another Polish family. It was done in cooperatio with her brother Grzegorz Kapilman. The new family was befriended with Kapilman. Then she changed her hiding place several times and then she wandered alone. At the end of the war she came back to the Podrzyckis family. After the war she found her aunt. Together they went to the mother’s family in the United States. Though contact was lost, in the 90’s Bronia made a statement. She told about the help rendered by Helena and Stanisław Podrzycki, thus the Podrzyckis were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 2016.