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

Wladek Kornblum

Wladek (Ber/Dov) Kornblum was born in Warsaw in 1932. His father Shlomo was a Yiddish author and a leather wallet producer. His mother Lunia was a teacher who owned a lingerie store. Before the war she had been an early-childhood teacher in Janusz Korczak’s orphanage. In the ghetto Wladek lived with his parents, his brother Wacek (Izio) and a cousin. He studied in the Komplety, the secret study groups that were held in the ghetto. In the summer of 1942 the entire family was brought to the Umschlagplatz* for deportation. Wladek’s uncle managed to rescue the family through bribes, but in a later aktion Wladek’s mother and cousin were caught again and deported to Treblinka.

In December 1942 Wladek’s father smuggled him to the Polish side of the city, and his brother was later smuggled out of the ghetto in March 1943. Wladek was placed in the home of Kazimierz Durjasz. Wladek was originally presented as a family relative, and then later hid in different locations, including under the bed, in the basement, in a nearby abandoned building and in the coal and apple storage units. His only friend in hiding was a dog that was with him. He wrote poetry and kept a diary, but these were subsequently destroyed. After the liberation of Warsaw by the Soviet Army, Wladek’s cousin Irka took him from hiding and brought him to Lodz, where he lived with her. In Lodz Wladek studied in public school. Afterwards, Jewish organizations assumed responsibility for Wladek and he spent time in various children’s homes, until he learned that his brother had survived and was living in the sanatorium in Otwock.

In August 1945 Wladek was transferred to the children’s home in Otwock, and was finally reunited with his brother. Wladek stayed in the children’s home for a year and a half, where he met Halina (Linka) Sztarkman.

Wladek immigrated to Eretz Israel with the older group of children from the home and they joined Kibbutz Amir, where he was later reunited with Halina. Wladek and Halina married and established a family. Wladek and Halina have two daughters and grandchildren and live in Tel Aviv.

In 1983 Kazimierz Durjasz, Wladek’s rescuer, was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Wladek helped support him financially and stayed in contact with him over the years until Durjasz passed away at the age of 96 in 2002.

* Umschlagplatz - transfer point in an area separating the Warsaw Ghetto from the Polish part of the city. From this location, hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to extermination camps and concentration camps from the Warsaw Ghetto between July and September 1942 and January and May 1943.

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