"A Time to Heal" (Ecclesiastes 3:3)
The Story of the Children's Home in Otwock, Poland

Franciszka Oliwa

Franciszka Oliwa survived the liquidation of the Otwock ghetto in 1943, after which she traveled to Warsaw under the protection of Aryan papers. She later hid in Kielce, in the home of the Poles Rudolf and Joanna Nowak. The Nowaks were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1991.

In January 1945, immediately after liberation, Oliwa traveled to Otwock to search for family members. Though her search proved to be unsuccessful, she happened to come upon a Russian soldier escorting a group of starving and poorly clothed Jewish children. The soldier led her and the children to an abandoned apartment, and she began to take care of the orphaned children.

In March 1945, the Central Committee of Jews in Poland (CKZP) appointed Luba Bielicka Blum as director of the children’s home, and Franciszka Oliwa remained in the home as the teacher of the middle group (children approximately between the ages of 7-12). Wiktoria Blum, one of the children in the home and the daughter of Luba Blum, relates:

Oliwa was the last teacher to leave the children’s home. She left the home when it closed in 1949 or slightly beforehand … when she left she simply took all of the materials that had been left behind, which was a large amount … we would publish a newspaper each month. There were the memoirs of the children, there were photographs. Everything that remained and had been left behind she took. It is to her merit that she took the materials, because no one else had taken it.

Oliwa is thus responsible for preserving much of the materials from the children’s home in Otwock.

After leaving the children’s home, Oliwa worked in the Polish Communist Party. With the rise of antisemitism and the removal of Jewish employees from the party ranks and public service, Oliwa began to work in the Jewish Historical Institute (ZIH) in Warsaw.

Over the years Franciszka Oliwa documented the history of the home and the children. After she passed away, the collection containing many materials from the period was given to the Yad Vashem Archives.

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