Polish family rescuing Jews during WWII honoured

Pilecki Institute honoured Franciszka and Józef Sowa, a family murdered by Nazi Germans for helping Jews during WWII with a memorial stone as a part of the “Called by name” project.

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The family had a farm in the Wierzchowisko village near Częstochowa, southern Poland. Franciszka and Józef Sowa had five children.

In the summer of 1942, Józef with his son Eugeniusz built an underground shelter. A group of Jews who were rescued from the ghetto in Częstochowa hid there. It was a pastry chef Henryk Cukrowski with his wife, goldsmith Marian Cukrowski, tailor Leon (last name unknown), and a teacher Pola ( full name also unknown). It is possible that even more Jews were hiding there at that time.

Providing food for such a large group of people required a lot of effort, children of Sowa family smuggled supplies from the nearby areas that were incorporated to Nazi Germany. They got caught and beaten up twice for that. For over a year the Sowa family managed to keep the secret about the hidden Jews.

On September 1, 1943, at dawn, German troops arrived at the farm. They started to beat the Polish family, including pregnant Franicszka, and ask where the Jews were. They did not answer.

Józef and Franciszka Sowa, as well as the Jews hiding in the shelter, were shot. The farm was burnt. Children were spared, their uncle Stanisław Sowa took care of them, except eight-year-old Janina, who was taken to Germany and lived under a new name in the city of Hannover. Until 1963 her siblings did not have contact with her and she did not recall her place of origin.

The project “Called by name” concerns people with Polish nationality murdered for helping Jews over the period of the Nazi German occupation of Poland. It was initiated by Magdalena Gawin, a deputy Culture Minister, and is conducted by the Pilecki Institute. Its goal is to present stories of such heroes to a wide public.

The Pilecki Institute is an organisation that serves to commemorate, document and study Polish history of the 20th century.