Testimony of Mosze Olszewicz, Buenos Aires, 30 June 1964

Dear friends,

Permit me to call you friends. You are my friends because today, 20 years after our liberation, you still remember the noble Christians who risked their lives to save us – and they were very few in those days. I am sure that you know what had happened then, and that the fate of a Jews was worse than that of hunted animals. Therefore I thank you in my name and on behalf of my wife and my brother, for taking interest in our rescuers. Believe us that they are like parents to us. Close friends would not have sacrificed themselves and risked their lives as they did for us.

Now let me describe shortly what happened to us. There is not enough paper to describe our suffering in those days. Although almost 20 years have passed since we were liberated, I am writing to you with tears in my eyes about what seems to be unconceivable.

I myself was born in 1922 in a small town, Jedwobne, close to Bialystok. In 1942 I escaped from the pogroms to the ghetto of Lomza, together with my young brother. My parents and sister arrived there as well. I don't have to tell you in detail how life in the ghetto was, you know it well. On a cool evening on 2 November 1942 screams were heard and confusion ensued. The ghetto was being liquidated and thousands were killed. We managed to break through the cordon and escape from the ghetto through fields and forests. We wandered around for several weeks in the snow and cold. When we realized that we would not be able to survive under these conditions, I remembered those Christians, and one evening we went to them to ask for some bread. He gave us not only bread, but also milk and other food. His wife's compassion cannot be described in words. We stayed for the night, and were about to leave the following morning. Suddenly A. Wyrzykowski and his wife said: 'Don't go. You are merely children. What we eat – you will eat. Whatever happens to you – will happen to us. We cannot have you fall into the hands of the Germans.' We fell down on our knees and thanked them with tears in our eyes for their sacrifice.

We hid for two and a half years in the village of Jonczowka, 4 kilometers from Jedwabne, 17 kilometers from Lomza, in the home of Aleksander Wyrzykowski, his wife Antonina and their two children – a boy and a girl. We would hide in a hole under the animals and they would bring us food, which they literally saved from their mouths. We were several Jews, among them my wife and brother. There was another family who today live in the United States. I believe you have their address.

The danger for the Wyrzykowskis was immense. The Germans would come often. Once, on 13 December 1943, they were conducting a search for Jews. It is easy to imagine what the Wyrzykowskis went through. The Germans searched with dogs, but could not find us. My friends, the honesty and kindness of these people cannot be described in words. There are not enough words to describe it, and not enough money to repay them. It was not suffering of one day or even one month, but two and a half years of agony and fear.

On 22 January 1945 we were liberated. Our rescuers' joy was limitless. We were close to despair, but it was again our rescuers who encouraged us to live. Two weeks after our liberation a gang attacked our rescuers and beat them up for having hidden Jews. They had to leave their home and settle in a new place where they are living today. They are poor people and we help them as much as we can, but we aren't rich either. We write letters to them because we owe them a debt and because we want to know how they are.

…Forgive me for my disorderly hand-writing, but as I am writing, the terrible memories come back, the heart becomes emotional and the hands unable to write.