Katarzyna Kazak - Instytut Pileckiego
Commemorated on 24 March 2022 in Brzóza Królewska.
Katarzyna lived with her husband Sebastian and their children in the village of Brzóza Królewska near Leżajsk. The couple had eight children, of which three passed away at a very young age. The family earned a living through farm work and rearing animals. Katarzyna and Sebastian could always count on the support of their children, who not only helped them on the farm, but also sought out work outside the village. Their eldest daughter Agnieszka, and their youngest Józefa, stayed with their parents to the end.
The Second World War and the German occupation were incredibly difficult for Katarzyna and her family. In March 1942, her eldest son Józef perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Soon after, on 1 August 1942, the Germans began liquidating the local Jewish population; many of the Jews were taken to the camp in Bełżec, and those who managed to flee the transports went into hiding in the forests.
The Kazaks spent several weeks helping the children of their neighbor, Pinchas Wachs, but the children eventually returned to their own home, where they died along with their parents. The next person they helped was Chana Stiller. Chana’s daughter was a classmate of the Kazaks’ daughter Józefa. Katarzyna’s husband prepared a small space in the barn where Chana could hide during the day. At night, she went into the Kazaks’ house and was given food and a place to sleep. She was often visited by two male friends, who were also given food and a place to stay in the attic.
On 27 March 1943, a cart carrying German gendarmes drove up to the Kazaks’ property. The Jews the family had been helping all happened to be at the house that day. The two Jews who were staying in the attic were shot first. Then the barn was searched. Chana Stiller was taken into the yard and shot. The Kazaks were also given the death sentence for helping Jews. Sebastian was shot first. When Katarzyna saw what happened to her husband, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and collapsed. She was executed with a shot to the head.
The village leader intervened to have the Kazaks buried at the local cemetery, but only an unsanctified grave could be secured. The Jews were buried in the farmyard. The Kazaks’ daughters, Agnieszka and Józefa, managed to escape and avoid execution, but they remained in danger for a long time after the events and were unable to return home.
In 2008, Katarzyna Kazak was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Institute.