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Interview with Barbara Ciejek zd. Zaparucha

Interview with Barbara Ciejek zd. Zaparucha, 10.03.2024 r.
Barbara Ciejek Barbara Ciejek (BC): - I will be 94 years old in September. I was born in Podbielsk (photo 1).

. Dom rodzinny Zaparuchów w Podbielsku; z archiwum prywatnego Barbary Ciejek.
Photo 1. Zaparucha family home in Podbielsk; from Barbara Ciejek's private archive.

Agnieszka Kostuch (AK): - Did you meet Jews there during the war?

BC: - Yes. They lived in a farm building, a cowshed in Bielsk; they had makeshift bedding there.

AK: - Did you see them or hear about them?

BC: - I saw them. Those Jews who were in Bielsk were not allowed to leave [the camp - A.K.]. They only went through Podbielsko somewhere to work[1]The camp for Jews in Bielsko (German: Bilsko Lager) existed until August 30,1943 and was connected to the camp in Podbielsk (German: Annaberg) The prisoners' task was to build a road from Bielsko to Orchowo. . They sang: "Hajli, hajlo, hajla![2]Read more about this song here: fed them along the way. They would put pots with potatoes by the side of the road and they would secretly grab these potatoes (Photos 2-3).

Mapka z zaznaczoną na niebiesko linią drogi, którą budowali Żydzi; źródło: Paweł Dragan.
Photo 2. Map showing the road the Jews built – the line marked in blue; source: Pawel Dragan.
Droga z Orchowa do Podbielska, widok obecny; fot. Paweł Dragan
Photo 3. The road from Orchow to Podbielsk, present view; photo: Pawel Dragan.

Once one Jew came to us, in the evening. He put a ribbon and a box on his head[3]Description of tefillin. and prayed like that. And we prepared food for him, whatever we had, potatoes, bread, so that he would share it with his friends. This happened a few more times. And then we were displaced to Kamionek and we had no contact with these Jews.

AK: - How did it happen that you settled in Kamionek and not elsewehere?

BC: - The Germans drove us off the farm, out of our warm home. They wanted to take us to the Governorate, somewhere in the Cracow region, I think. One lady stopped us as they were leading us to such a school to deport us. It wasn't just us, because there were other Poles as well. And they were settling Germans from Saxony. My father [Jozef Zaparucha – A. K.] was a learned farmer and got to be a clerk to the Germans, on two estates - in Katno and Kamionek. He moved us from Podbielsk to Kamionek on March 8 [most likely 1941 - A.K.]. It was snowing at the time. In addition to my parents there were my brothers: Bernard, a year and a half older than me, and Edward, six years younger (Photo 4).

Od lewej: Floriana Zaparucha zd. Cieślicka, Basia i Edward Zaparuchowie, Kamionek w czasie wojny; z archiwum prywatnego Barbary Ciejek.
Photo 4. From the left: Floriana Zaparucha née Cieslicka, Basia and Edward Zaparucha, in Kamionek during the war; from Barbara Ciejek's private archive.
Jerzy was born in 1944 in Kamionek. We moved to a small Polish farm. The owners had to move into half of the house, and they gave us the other half. It was only two rooms. We had neither a plate nor a spoon. But my father immediately scrounged up a bicycle. Since he had an agricultural education, he tried to get a job as an overseer in Katno. He knew German well. The Germans tried to Germanize us a bit. But father remained a Pole to the end. They combined the two estates in Katno and Kamionek, so that he worked on two. He put his brother-in-law, my mother's brother, in charge of such the estate in Kamionek. He himself had an office in Katno. My mother [Floriana Zaparucha, née Cieslicka - A.K.] made jackets for the workers in Kamionek out of strings from unraveled sacks. In addition, she carried documents from the village leader from Kamionek to Katno. The two villages had one leader, and he lived next door to us in Kamionek. Father was afraid that we would be taken to Germany, because Polish children were being deported there. He hired my older brother Bernard to work as a gardener in Katno, but he did not perform his duties, he preferred horses. Therefore, father arranged for him to work on his sister's farm with horses in Procyn. The Germans fed father only cauliflower, so after the war cauliflower would gross him out for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, we survived and when the Russians liberated us, we returned to Podbielsk. It was a big house and the Russians moved the horses into it, because it was winter. The whole house was neglected, so we renovated everything.

AK: - Do you remember Renia Wrzeszczynska[4]O prowadzonym przez nią w czasie wojny dzienniczku, losach rodziny Wrzeszczyńskich pisałam w „Przewodniku Katolickim” numer 13/2022, dostęp online: … Czytaj dalej?

BC: - Yes. My father took in a gardener Antoniewicz, who had a niece, and it was Renia. He was afraid that she would be deported to Germany. Her father had already been taken [to the Mauthausen-Gusen camp - A.K.]. She was also afraid [5]Children over the age of 13 were forced to work for the Germans. Renia moved in with the Zaparuchas in March 1942.He wanted to take her to live with him, because he had made some living quarters for himself in Katno, but he couldn't, so he placed her in our home. Renia lived with us for maybe a year. She slept in one bed with my mother. There were four of us children in one room and only two beds. Then this uncle took her to live with him.

AK: - According to Renia's memoirs, her family - a mother with nine children - survived the war thanks to his help.

BC: - They [Jozef Zaparucha and Hieronim Antoniewicz - A.K.] stole a little from the farm occupied by a German woman in Katno. It was a large estate, there was a bunch of cattle, so sometimes they stole cream. They seasoned their lives a bit, because there was great poverty.

AK: - Renia recalled that you and she walked to work from Kamionek to Katno. You passed the building of the former school (Photo 5), where the Germans kept Jewish women. They were used to work in Notec. Do you remember them?
Budynek dawnej szkoły w Kamionku
Photo 5. The building of the former school in Kamionek; source: Pawel Dragan.

BC- Yes, they used to make fascines on that river.

AK- Where did you see them?

BC- They could sometimes go out [of the school building - A.K.]. They would come to our house, bring fish from that river, we would fry them and they would eat. We didn't have much food ourselves, but when they came, they ate a little. They only came to our house. They spoke Polish.

AK- Did they say where they came from?

BC- I don't remember.

AK- Renia remembered that they had ulcers on their legs from standing in the river. What condition were they in when they came to you?

BC- They were healthy. Mom used to pack food for them.

AK- So the parents helped completely selflessly.

BC- Well, sure. We shared what we had. Mom was a person who helped everyone (Photo 6).

Floriana Zaparucha; z archiwum prywatnego Barbary Ciejek
Photo 6. Floriana Zaparucha; from Barbara Ciejek's private archive.
We would appreciate you sharing any information about this story and sharing the conversation further. We are still investigating this story. Virtually unknown until now.


Many thanks to Mr. Pawel Dragan for his help in finding out the truth and the photographs he took, and to Kasia Sudaj for her help in getting to the meeting with Ms. Basia and taking photo documentation.


1 The camp for Jews in Bielsko (German: Bilsko Lager) existed until August 30,1943 and was connected to the camp in Podbielsk (German: Annaberg) The prisoners' task was to build a road from Bielsko to Orchowo.
2 Read more about this song here:
3 Description of tefillin.
4 I wrote about the diary she kept during the war, the fate of the Wrzeszczynski family, in "Przewodnik Katolicki" issue 13/2022, accessed online:
5 Children over the age of 13 were forced to work for the Germans. Renia moved in with the Zaparuchas in March 1942.
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