In honor of Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, I remember Gertruda Bablinska, a Gentile and a devout Catholic.
Gertruda worked as a nanny for a Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland. When the Germans invaded, the father of the family was away, and never returned. Gertruda accompanied the mother, Lidia Stolowicki and her son Michael, to Vilna. Mrs. Stolowicki was terrified. Gertruda took charge. Soon after they arrived, Mrs. Stolowicki suffered a stroke and died. Two months after her death, the Soviets occupied Vilna, began killing Jews, and established the Jewish ghetto.
In testimony to Yad Vashem, Gertruda recalled, “I was left alone, with a circumcised five-year-old child.”
Gertruda somehow managed to obtain false papers, and a baptismal certificate for the boy, claiming he was her nephew. Because she knew German, Gertruda wrote petitions to authorities in exchange for food. When Michael got sick, she took him to a Jewish doctor in the ghetto. She said, “There were many difficult moments, but I knew that my mother was praying for me.”
After the war, Gertruda took the boy to visit her parents’ home in Gdansk. Her parents begged her to stay, but she and Michael joined other refugees in a DP (displaced persons) camp in Germany, waiting to transport to the land of Israel. Jewish Defense Forces assured Gertruda that they would care for Michael, but she insisted on staying with him.
In 1947, she and Michael boarded the Exodus, a boat full of Holocaust survivors hoping to rebuild their lives in the land of Israel. The boat was intercepted by British war ships, and the passengers forced to return to Europe. They again ended up in a DT camp.
In 1948, Gertruda and Michael tried again. They settled in Israel. Gertruda remained a devout Catholic all of her life. She raised Michael as her own son, and–keeping her word to Michael’s mother—she raised him as a Jew.
See Michael Stolowicki’s testimony:
For more stories of the Righteous Among the Nations, visit the Yad Vashem website.
Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier, all rights reserved. Shevarim.com