In the twenties of the previous century young Gertruda Babilińska worked for a Jewish family in Warsaw as a caregiver. When the family decided to emigrate to Israel and offered to Gertruda to join them as part of the family, Gertruda chose to remain in her home country and went to work for the Stołowickis, a well-established Jewish family. At the time, she had no idea that, eventually, she would end up in Israel.
Gerttruda was taking care of the baby daughter of the Stołowicki couple. Unfortunately, the baby fell ill and died. Gertruda remained to take care of the mother, Lidia Stołowicki, who struggled with a poor health and never managed to get over the loss of her daughter. In 1936, a son by the name of Michael was born to the couple and also he was taken care of devotedly by Gertruda. After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, the family’s comfortable life came to an abrupt end. The father who at the time was staying in Paris did not manage to return to Poland, the servants left and Babilińska joined Lidia and her 3-year-old son when the latter embarked on a dangerous escape from Warsaw eastward. As Lidia was too weak to take charge of the mission Gertruda took over and even managed to support all of them when they got stuck in Vilnus together with thousands of Jewish refugees who thought that they would be better off in the east but were proven wrong.
Lidia Stołowicki took ill and died in April, 1941 but before dying she made Gertruda swear that she would take care of her son and go with him to Israel. “I remained alone with a circumcised 5-year-old boy” Gertruda told people at Yad Vashem years later. The Germans conquered additional swathes of Soviet territory and Gertruda’s and the boy’s situation became even more precarious. She lived with him in a small room, secured false identity papers for him including a Christian certificate of baptism, registered him as her cousin, supported both of them translating people’s applications to the authorities into German. Now and then she even would walk into the area of the neighboring ghetto to help her acquaintances. When little Michael became sick, she found a doctor whom she could trust not to hand them over to the authorities. From the place where they were staying they could observe the goings-on in the ghetto and how the Jews were taken to their death.
After the war, she made good on her promise, left her family in Poland and together with the little boy joined the survivors who were trying to make their way to Israel. Their journey included a difficult stay at a DP camp in Germany, a passage on the ship Exodus in 1947 and, after an additional stay in a DP camp, they both arrived in Israel. Gertruda lived in Tel Aviv and took cleaning to support herself and Michael and she even kept the promise to raise him as a Jew. In June 1963, Yad Vashem awarded the Pole Gertruda Babilińska the title of Righteous Among the Nations and she planted one of the first trees in the Alley of the Righteous Among the Nations in Yad Vashem.
Years later, the fantastic story of Gertruda Babilińska and Michael Stołowicki became the theme of the novel – “the Oath” – by Ram Oren. The novel was translated into several languages and won international acclaim.