Malwina Sawka Gerc, Poland

Tonia and Israel Friedman, their three daughters and Israel’s father were moved out of Zlotniki in Poland to the Podhajce ghetto. Face by dire conditions with no food in the ghetto, Israel bribed a German officer to arrange for a 4-day pass for him and his daughter Berta to go and look for food.

It was then that they went back to their old neighborhood to stay with Malwina Sawka Gerc and her parents Josef and Antonina Sawko. Israel had arranged for a local farmer to take them back, but he did not show up. They stayed in the fields that night but found out the next morning that the whole of Podhajce had been liquidated. Having no one to go back and not having carried any money or other resources they felt helpless and decided to commit suicide. They got a prescription for poison from a Jewish doctor and asked Malwina to fill it, but she refused.

They hid during the summer months in Malwina’s fields because if they stayed inside the house, they feared that the Sawko family would be taken in by the Germans for aiding Jews. Malwina brought Berta and Israel food every Sunday. During the winter months the fields didn’t provide much of a refuge so they moved to the farm and lived in the haystack from September thru November. When the weather was even worse they did a hole under the cows covered with straw and wood. The hole would only allow them to sit up. When raining they would often sit in waist-high water.

In February 1944, when the Soviet Army liberated the region, Israel and Berta fled their hiding place to ensure that no one knew of the assistance they received from Malwina and her family. Malwina died at the age of 79 in 2005