Gertruda Babilenska, Poland

Gertruda Babilinska was born in 1902 near Danzig, Poland. She worked for a rich Jewish family named Stolowitzky, caring for the two children. The father was taken to Auschwitz. Then the daughter died. Mrs. Stolowitzky thought Warsaw would be safer. Gertruda accompanied them to Warsaw and then to Vilna. Things were very bad. The Nazis gave poison candy to Jewish children, so Gertruda taught Mickey never to accept anything to eat. Mrs. Stolowitzky asked Gertruda to promise to take care of Mickey if anything happened to her.

Mrs. Stolowitzky sickened and died. Mickey wanted Gertruda to be his mother. She asked him to wait three days for her answer. How could a single, forty-year-old Catholic woman raise a Jewish child? Finally, Gertruda agreed. He was so happy that he threw his arms around her.

When Mickey got sick, Gertruda brought him to a German doctor. She said she was Mickey’s sister. When she asked how much she owed the doctor, he would not let her pay. He said, ”No, you have helped me feel like a man.”He must have known Mickey was a Jewish boy.

During the war Mickey went to church with Gertruda, learned the prayers, and even become an altar boy. She knew she would tell him, when it was safe, that he was not Catholic, that he must always be Jewish. After the war, Gertruda and Mickey were on the first ship to Israel, the Exodus. The ship was over-crowded. The British did not allow it to dock in Palestine. Finally they arrived. >From the moment he set foot on the land of Israel, Mickey became a Jewish patriot – a miracle, says Gertruda.

They went to Mickey’s relatives in Israel. They gave Gertruda a little room with no water and no toilet. They paid for a half-year of Mickey’s schooling. They wanted to adopt Mickey and send Gertruda back to Poland. They refused to pay for his schooling if Gertruda remained in Israel. Mickey cried and said to her, ”You are my mother. I don’t want them for parents.” To them he said, ”I don’t want to be a son of your family. I want to stay with my mother forever. Where she will go, I will go.”

For eighteen years, Gertruda lived in the same room with no water and worked as a maid to pay for Mickey’s schooling. He attended Be’er Shemin, a program for European children like him. Mickey grew up to be a good Jew. Gertruda is very proud of him.

Mickey began arranging tours in Israel and was transferred to Miami and then New York. He visits Israel often and always visits Gertruda at the Gertrud Luckner Home for the Aged in Nahariyya. Gertruda stays in Israel so that Mickey can remain an Israeli. She visits him in USA and says he is the best son in the world.

Source: PBS. Frontline