News

Witnesses to the Age - Stories that leave no one indifferent

31.03.2020

The testimonies recorded within the project “Witnesses to the Age”already include nearly 1,250 recollections and reminiscences of Polish citizens who lived through the War II and of those who remember that difficult and turbulent postwar period.

„Everybody had their own specialty there: tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths. Wool was carded, oil was pressed and there were Jewish mills in the neighborhood (…) There was a woman called Lejbowa, who dressed up about thirty girls or more”.

With these words begins the story of Eugenia Zębrowska, a story about a world that no longer exists. Eugenia, nearly 90 years old today, has memories that involve many Jewish names – her neighbors, friends and acquaintances. How many of them died? Who survived?

Eugenia similarly does not fail to talk about Polish residents of Mazovian villages who saved many human lives, often paying the highest price for providing help to their Jewish co-citizens.

This is one of the first testimonies recorded as part of the project “Witnesses to the Age – Oral History Archive” available on YouTube. In 2018, we started recording the recollections and reminiscences of people who lived through the Second World War, and also of those who remember the postwar period. Among the witnesses who talk about their experiences are soldiers from all fronts of the conflict, civilians, political prisoners, concentration camp inmates, and those who were incarcerated in forced labor camps and the Gulag. Witnesses of atrocities motivated by nationalism and of war crimes. The Righteous and the Saved. Polish citizens, Poles holding foreign citizenship, and the citizens of other countries. Accounts concerning the postwar period provide, among others, information about the activities of the NKVD, the mass arrests conducted by the security services, and the period of martial law. The Solidarity movement is discussed by its members, while the workers’ strikes – by their immediate participants. Some of them have never given an interview before, others have been waiting for years for the chance to speak. The testimonies we present here have been divided into the following themes: the Katyn Massacre, the Warsaw Uprising, German atrocities during the occupation, Witnesses of Volhynia Massacre and the Augustów roundup.

We are grateful to our audience not only for the interest in our heroes, but also for the valuable information about the remarkable fates of their relatives and friends. We have so far conducted about 1,250 notations both in Poland and abroad.


Katarzyna Łaniewska is a Polish actress and was once a member of the anti-Communist resistance. In her interview, she recalls the dark times of the German occupation of Warsaw, when her family helped a Jewish girl sneaking out of the Ghetto in search of food.

She also recalls the Warsaw Uprising, which she and her family survived in the Mokotów district. After the fall of the Uprising, Katarzyna and her family were transported to Wolbrom where her father’s business acquaintances gave them shelter. It is the first time that she has spoken so expansively about her experiences from that time.

 

See also