14 October 2004
A ceremony posthumously honoring a Polish couple who saved a Jewish girl during the Holocaust took place today, October 14, 2004 in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. Ewa Gawlak Bielaczyk accepted the medal on behalf of her parents, Alfons and Aurelia Gawlak. The Gawlaks are being recognized for their actions in saving Ola Schary (nee Roztach) who was represented at the ceremony by her daughter, Helen Schary-Motro.
The Rescue Story
Ola Schary was born in Warsaw in 1914. In 1939 with the German invasion, Ola’s brother and sister fled to the Russian occupied territories. In 1940 she and her parents were moved to the ghetto. Ola’s father died in the ghetto; her mother was deported to Treblinka and was killed there. Ola escaped to the Aryan part of Warsaw and acquired false papers under the name of Helena Zakshavska. She found work as a maid with a Polish family but was soon fired when her employers understood that she was Jewish. She then found work as a nanny for the Gawlak family. She looked after their daughter Ewa, and developed a close friendship with Aurelia.
There are a number of indications that Mr. and Mrs. Gawlak suspected that “Helena” was Jewish. Nevertheless, they treated her well, and did not ask problematic questions, such as why she didn’t go to church. When the Polish Uprising began, and it seemed that the Russians would soon liberate the city, Ola told them about her Jewish identity. The Gawlaks let her know that they suspected this already. When the Uprising was crushed, the family, together with Ola, fled to Proshkow. Ola became ill, and Mrs. Gawlak took care of her and had her admitted to hospital. Aurelia Gawlak gave Ola a large sum of money, which helped her survive for the remainder of the war.
After the war, Ola was brought to Canada by her sister. She married, and moved to Israel in 1987. She told the story of how she survived the war to her brother and daughter, Helen Schary Motro, and about her wish to somehow repay the family that saved her. Helen, a journalist and lawyer, published an article in a Polish paper telling the story of the Gawlaks’ actions. The editor of the paper found Ewa Gawlak, now 64, and facilitated contact between the two women.
The event is open to the press.
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