Paulina Kisielewska was a young girl growing up in a family of ardent Catholics from the area of Calish. The family lived up to the values of helping others, notwithstanding who, and, therefore, they helped a number of Jews to hide. During World War II, they would hand out hot meals to children who knocked on the door of the family’s house. They did it although they knew that they risked immediate execution by the Germans for helping Jews.
Paulina Kisielewska was 16 years old when, in 1940, the Germans invaded Poland and seized control of Calish. The Kisielewskis were Catholics who knew that providing any kind of assistance, shelter or even giving a slice of bread to a hungry Jewish child was punishable by instant death. Paulina herself was a witness to a scene when passers-by who walked past a Jewish woman who was begging for food did not even dare to look at her. Eventually, when one woman could no longer resist the Jewish woman’s begging and handed her a slice of bread, a German soldier approached and shot both of them. A shocked Paulina returned home and the incident haunted her for many days to come. She was taught the values of helping others regardless of their origin from early on: “My father was very religious and believed in helping your neighbor. A Jewish victim is not just Jewish, he or she is also a human being. Is it not so?” This is what Paulina said in her testimony on the Yad Vashem website.
Throughout the years of the war, Paulina and her family gave hot food to children who arrived and knocked on the door of the Kisielewskis’ house and, later on, they hid Jews in their own house and in houses in the area. Among those the Kisielwskis hid were Rosa Unger, Sarah and Shalom Shapira and their son Imak, David Halperin and a young mother by the name of Miriam Helfgot. They helped her smuggle her son out of the ghetto. Miriam Helfgot who survived the inferno with her daughter gave her testimony in Yad Vashem and played a part in having Paulina Kisielewska recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in December,1987.
A couple of weeks ago Paulina Kisielewska died at the age of 93.