In Cellars, Pits and Attics
Jan and Anna Puchalski, and their children, Irena, Krystyna and Sabina
Five Jews hid for 17 months in the special shelter the Puchalski family prepared for them under the floorboards of their home. Although they were very poor and lived with their five children in a tiny home in Łososna, the Puchalskis risked their lives because of their love of humanity, inspired by their religious faith. Thus in early 1943, when Sender Frejdowicz, his 15-year-old nephew Felix Zandman, Golda and Motel Bass, Meir Zamoszczanski and Borka Szulkies fled from the liquidation of the Grodno ghetto, the Puchalskis, whom they had known from summers they had spent in the village, took them in. Within a short time, Szulkies and Zamoszczanski left, but another fugitive, Ester Szapira, arrived.
The hiding place was small and crowded. Sender Frejdowicz made strict rules in order to ensure that the fugitives, who were stuck together in the small space, without any privacy, maintained their human dignity. He also taught his nephew, Felix, mathematics, keeping a strict schedule of lessons. The Puchalskis cared for all the needs of the Jews they had taken under their wing. Thanks to their resourcefulness and courage, they were able to prevent the hiding place from being discovered during searches conducted in the area.
From the testimony of Felix Zandman:
...so we were four. And we were like that for quite a time. There were problems of 'how to live in a society of four people, completely enclosed, without light, without killing each other'...
My uncle, of blessed memory, was a very intelligent man; he immediately installed a system of law and order. He said: "We are here to survive. We may be here for months and months, God knows for how long. We have to make sure we live like civilized people, so we are not ashamed of each other when we leave, and we don’t tear up each other alive.
"So, number one: no sex." So there was nothing.
"Number two: continuously change the place where you lie down." This was to make sure that nobody got a better place to rest than others. So every two hours there was a rotation.
"Number three: a religious division of food…"
[and so as] not to get crazy in the hole, my uncle taught me math….
She [Anna Puchalski] did something that was absolutely out of the ordinary. You speak about heroism, heroism in a battle – somebody gets wounded, you jump, in two-three minutes you pull him out from the fire, big deal, and you get a medal for that. Big hero, right? Here, they risk not only their lives, or her life, but the lives of the children! And it’s not for five minutes, it was for 17 months! 24 hours a day! Terrible. And they did it.
On June 26, 1986, Yad Vashem recognized Jan and Anna Puchalski as Righteous Among the Nations. Their children Irena, Krystyna and Sabina were recognized as Righteous on October 19, 1987.