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Flickers of Light

Jerzy Bielecki

Jerzy Bielecki after his escape from Auschwitz. Jerzy Bielecki during a visit to Yad Vashem Jerzy Bielecki, with other Righteous Among the Nations, who attended a gathering at Yad Vashem in 1998

In 1940, the Germans caught 17-year-old Jerzy Bielecki as he was escaping from occupied Poland into Hungary, and sent him to Auschwitz as prisoner No. 243. In the fall of 1943, after about three years of hard labor, he made the acquaintance of Tzila Cybulska from Lomza, in the Bialystok district. Cybulska, a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, was also sentenced to hard labor. Bielecki and Cybulska used to meet in secret, despite the fact that male and female prisoners were forbidden to meet, and grew fond of each other.

In early 1944, Bielecki informed Cybulska of his plan to escape from the camp together with a Polish friend, Cybulska, and another Jewish girl. For reasons that are not clear, the original plan was aborted. Instead, on July 21, 1944, Bielecki appeared at the door of Cybulska’s barrack, dressed in an SS uniform he had pilfered from the German warehouse, barked out the number tattooed on his friend’s arm, and marched her out of the camp, as the SS were in the habit of doing, in an escape operation that was one of the most daring of its kind. The two continued eastward, walking, mostly by night, through fields and forests. Soon their food ran out, their clothes were soaked through, and Cybulska was exhausted. When she felt she could no longer continue, she begged Bielecki to leave her behind, but he refused and even carried her on his shoulders whenever he was able. Some ten days later, the two fugitives reached the village of Muniakowice, in the Kielce district, where a relative of Bielecki’s took them in. In time, Bielecki joined the partisans of the AK while Cybulska was taken to a neighboring village, where she was put up by the Czerniks, a peasant couple, who looked after her devotedly until the liberation.

After the war, Cybulska emigrated to the United States, and in 1983, returned to Poland to meet her savior, Jerzy Bielecki.

On June 27, 1985, Yad Vashem recognized Jerzy Bielecki as a Righteous Among the Nations.