Someday soon we will buy flowers for you, too

Leopold Socha lived in a poor Lvov neighborhood and was employed by the Department of the City Hall to deal with maintenance of the city’s sewage system maintenance. When the Germans conquered the city, Socha, as well as the rest of the city’s inhabitants was a witness to the atrocities that Germans committed against and he was flabbergasted. He became friends with Jews who were locked up in the ghetto and at some point of time he felt that he could not remain indifferent to their fate. He joined forces with Stefan Wróblewski who worked with him cleaning the sewage canals and shared his plan with him. In May 1943, on the day of the liquidation of the ghetto and dispatch of its inhabitants to their death, he noticed a group of Jews who were making their way through the water-filled canal. He managed to prevent them from coming out through the estuary of the canal where Gestapo agents had set up an ambush. He suggested that they stay inside the sewage canal so that he could help them.

This sewage canal became the hiding place of Jews for more than a year. Socha, his wife and the Wróblewski family provided them with all the necessities until the end of the war. This terrible period confronted the hiding Jews and those who were hiding them with incredible challenges. Among these hiding Jews there was a woman by the name of Genia who was in the last stages of pregnancy. When the terrible living conditions in the canal caused the death of her child and her old grand-mother, the others had to bury them.

For 13 months the group of Jews hid in the sewage canal while two families, the Sochas and the Wróblewskis provided them with food and even with equipment enabling them to celebrate their Jewish holidays and also books for children and newspapers. During this long period it was necessary to preserve one’s mental balance, to keep the small children busy and to survive while listening to what was going on above the ground. Among the hiding Jews were members of the Czerowski family, a pair of parents with two children aged 4 and 7.  In her testimony at Yad Vashem Paulina Czerowski told that one Sunday morning she was listening to a conversation between a mother and her daughter who were on their way to church and bought flowers. The daughter who was 7 years old suddenly stopped and the mother did the only possible thing. She hugged her daughter and promised her: “Someday soon we will be free and we will buy flowers for you, too.”

On July 27, 1944, the day on which the Germans were defeated at Stalingrad, Lvov was liberated. Only 10 Jews of the group of 21 who were hiding in the sewers survived: Halina Wind, the Czerowski family and the Margolis family. These ten people were part of a group of less than 1000 Lvov Jews who survived the Holocaust.  Halina Wind who was the only surviving member of her family emigrated to the United States and there she married George Preston who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau. She kept in touch with her saviors until the day of her death. Jerzy and Halina Cerowski emigrated to Israel in 1957. Paweł Czerowski who was only 4 years old when he was living in the sewers was killed during his military service in 1978. On May, 1978, Yad Vashem awarded the tile of Righteous Among the Nations to Leopold and Magdalena Socha. In 1981, Stefan Wróblewski and his wife were granted the same title.

In 2011, the story of the rescue performed by Leopold Socha was turned into a movie by the Polish director Agnieszka Holland and it was called “In Darkness”. The script was written by David P. Shamon. The movie was nominated as the best foreign-language movie at the 84th Academy Awards.