Oral history
History witnesses

Krystyna Zawadzka

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Krzysztof Banach
Przemysław Jaczewski
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
10th August 2014
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN
Poles Active in the Protection of Jewish Heritage


ghettos , Forced labour camps, Occupation, Pre-war relations with Jews , Everyday life.

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Krystyna Zawadzka was born in 1928 in Białystok. Her father, Bohdan Skrzędziejewski, was a surveyor coming from a family of railwaymen living in Strosielce, while her mother – Helena nee Szumińska from Białystok – worked at a bank. Before the war, the Skrzędziejewski family lived at Jurowiecka Street, in a neighbourhood considerably inhabited by Jews. During the September Campaign, Bohdan Skrzędziejewski, as a mobilised officer, was captured by the Soviets, and then executed by a firing squad in Ostaszków.

Before the war, Krystyna Zawadzka and her brother attended an exclusive School of Exercise at Mickiewicza Street (known as “ćwieczeniówka”), where she met Helena (Lilka) Bohle, a girl from a Jewish-protestant family, who become her dear friend. This friendship continued also during German occupation (until her friend went into hiding), as well as after the war.

In the Białystok occupied by Germans, Krystyna Zawadzka, in fear of being sent to a forced-labour camp, worked in a German factory of gelatine bottle caps. This is where she established contacts with Jewish women from the Białystok ghetto. She also witnessed deportations.

After the war, she continued education in the middle and secondary school for girls at Kościelna Street, and then in the pedagogical secondary school at Fabryczna Street. Having passed the final exams, she began studies at the University of Łódź, from which she was later expelled due to her “origin.” She continued her education at a post-secondary school of economy and finance in Warsaw. In 1980, she went into early retirement. Since 1990, she has been a member of the “Rodzina Katyńska” Association in Białystok, since 2007 as its chairman.

Recording summary

  1. Family members, grandfather’s work in Siberia, father’s return after the 1917 revolution, father’s participation in the September Campaign, father’s death in Ostaszków, 0:00:48
  2. Mother’s work at the bank, taking care of the house, her own and her brother's education before the war, 0:03:23
  3. The family’s experiences during two occupations: escaping deportations during the German occupation, attending a Soviet school, mother going back to work at the bank, 0:04:24
  4. Work in the factory of gelatine bottle caps, working with Jews from the ghetto, a Jewish named Dorcia and the attempts to save her, deportations of Jews from the Fabryczna railway station, 0:05:43
  5. Living and being friends with the Golbert brothers from Warsaw during the Soviet occupation, friendship with Lilka Bohle, post-war meeting with Lilka in Łódź, what happened to Lilka after the war, the Golberts leaving Białystok, 0:07:49
  6. Jews in Białystok before World War II, social diversity of Jews, districts where Jews lived, Polish-Jewish relations, large families and lives of Jewish merchants, Jewish intelligentsia and wealthy elites, 0:13:46
  7. Poles and Jews in Białystok, daily life, anti-Jewish propaganda of nationalists, 0:20:18
  8. Jewish trade in pre-war Białystok, 0:21:13
  9. Jews during the Soviet occupation, tenant Yuriy Griegorievich, getting a job for her mother and Grigorievich escaping the Germans, 0:23:30
  10. Contacts with Jews during the occupation, deportations from Pietrasze, Jews in Białystok before the war, 0:25:37
  11. Attending school and problems with further education after the war, the “wolf ticket,” and persecutions caused by coming from a Katyn family, getting married and having a family, 0:29:22
  12. Social activities to commemorate the Katyn massacre, 0:34:12
  13. Description of more distant family members, holidays at her grandparents’ in Starosielce, her father’s family and their jobs, 0:38:12
  14. Pre-war Starosielce and the railway employees living there, 0:46:34
  15. Jewish intelligentsia and poor Jews before the war, the mess in certain Orthodox homes, 0:47:50
  16. Jewish trade and partnerships with Poles, 0:49:10
  17. Commuting to school across districts of large Jewish families, the feast of Sukkot and the factory district, 0:53:28
  18. Education in a Soviet school, friendships with Jews at school, participation in celebrations during the labour day and hospitalisation, request of the wife of a Jewish physician to hide his children during the German occupation, friendship with a teacher, Ms. Serafinowcz, 0:54:55
  19. Lifestyle and attire of rich Jewish women and poor Jews, 01:00:38
  20. Synagogues in Białystok and burning down of a large synagogue, 01:03:00
  21. Jewish cemetery in Białystok, funerals of Jews, 01:04:18
  22. Hiding Irka Bohle at the cemetery, Lilka in the camp, Lilka’s post-war life and breakdown, learning at school together with Lilka, social visits, the Bohle family’s house, the surroundings of Lilka’s house and a digression about father’s fallout with a Jewish tenement house owner, 01:06:15
  23. Protestants in Białystok, 01:20:19
  24. Post-war meeting with Lilka in Łódź, later contacts and news about the friend, 01:22:55
  25. Schoolmates of Jewish origin, 01:29:28
  26. Learning in a ten-year school, political supervision over education, 01:31:02
  27. The beginning of the war, Germans vs. Jews, work during the occupation and deportations of Jews,01:35:44
  28. Ghetto in Białystok, topography, creation, provision of supplies for the ghetto by Poles, camps in Poland and after-war visits in the museums created on their remains, commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, commemorating celebrations, 01:43:17
  29. Work in the gelatine bottle cap factory, Polish co-workers, working with Jewish women, ideas for work and rest, watches during raids, the factory building after the war, 01:52:05
  30. Ghetto uprising, commemorating celebrations, Jewish survivors in the USSR, deportations deep inside Russia during the Soviet occupation, returns of Jews from the USSR, 02:05:44
  31. Germans plundering Jewish possessions and Poles seizing real properties, 02:11:31
  32. Red Army in Białystok, gross conduct and appearance of the soldiers, searches in the flat, life after the occupation and ways to survive just after the war, 02:13:13
  33. Trying to learn what happened to her farther, meetings of the Katyn Family, 02:20:30
  34. Jews returning after the war, her brother’s illness and meeting Lilka in a sanatorium, contacts with Jews after the war, Jewish-themed cultural events; approx. 02h20’40’’
  35. Polish-Jewish relations before the war, popularity of a “buza” drink, multiculturalism of pre-war Białystok, 02:31:06
  36. Nationalists and anti-Semitism in pre-war and contemporary Białystok 02:36:30
  37. Post-war emigration of Jewish survivors, relations with Palestinians in Israel, 02:38:00
  38. Emptiness after the murdered Jews, acquaintance with Jews before the war, shopping from Jews, Jewish bakeries and butchers, 02:40:40
  39. Evaluation of the post-war seizure of Jewish property, 02:47:20
  40. Commemoration in Białystok and Tykocin, 02:49:06
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