Kidnapped by own family

Her parents died in the Sarny ghetto. Tekla and Franciszek took her into their family, only to loose her a few years later. Was she kidnapped with help from the authorities?

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From left to right: Tekla, Franciszek Jankowski, on his knees Kazimierz Martinczyk, behind them Alina Martinczyk, on the right side sits an unknown girl (probably one of the Jewish children who lived with Jankowskis during the war).

Her parents died in the Sarny ghetto, along with most of her sisters and brothers. In a city that changed hands, where Polish resistance combated the Ukrainian forces, little Anna Gutmorgen found new parents. Polish parents. Tekla and Franciszek took her into their family, only to loose her a few years later. Was she kidnapped with help from the authorities?

The Gutmorgens lived in Pultusk before the war. Most likely they escaped the German invasion by going east, to the Soviet-occupied zone. But when the Germans invaded in 1941, most of the family ended up in the Sarny ghetto. That is where they died, killed by German soldiers or Ukrainian policemen, who liquated the ghetto in 1942. Then 8-year-old Anna was one of a few Jewish children sheltered by Tekla and Franciszek Jankowscy. Her then teenaged brother was with the partisans. Whereabouts of her sister – who survived the war and later went to Israel – are unknown. Jankowski moved to the village of Henrykowo after the war and took Anna with them. In Henrykowo, she was sent to school, from where – as her teacher Henryk Leszczynski wrote down in his memoirs – she was kidnapped a couple of years later.

„H. (the teacher refers to Anna as Hanna) didn’t want to go back to her relative and she ran away afraid of being taken by force. Once she ran to my place and she stayed over the night” – the teacher Leszczynski wrote in his memoirs. The relative mentioned in the memoir is most probably her aunt Guta Szynowloga, a clerk. Guta came to the village a couple of times trying to persuade her niece Anna and her new Polish parents to let Anna live with her. In the village, both Leszczynski and Anna’s schoolfriends knew of this situation. They also all knew Anna was Jewish.

Years went by, and Anna grew from a child to a teenager. We don’t know the reason why she chose to stay with her Polish family. „(...) she has no trust for them” – wrote the representative of the Central Commitee of Polish Jews in his notepad, when visiting Henrykowo. Thanks to that document, we know that the Jankowski family would have consented to letting the child go. „If contacted by relatives from London or America, she (Tekla Jankowska) will have no objections to giving the child to them” – we read. We don’t know why Guta couldn’t have the child, but from the documents it’s clear that Anna did not want to go with her aunt.

Thanks to Henryk Leszczynski’s memoirs, we know that she was supported in her decision to stay with the Jankowski family. „Once they came by the school, while H. was at classes. The aunt stayed in the car, whilst two men entered the school. H. hid in the chancellary. One of them showed me his UB (Communist secret police) badge, and wanted to force entrance and look for H., and then I warned him pointing out to armed students“ – wrote Mr. Leszczynski. In the end, Anna’s aunt was able to kidnap her with the help of these two men.

This is the only eye-witness account from this incident. What’s unusual, Leszczynski does not seem to understand the uniqueness of both his, and his students attitude. „[The agent] restrained from violence. The Jew followed me, took out a wad of bills and tried to convince me, that I’m not rich and the aunt will give it to me only for getting to talk to H.“ – Henryk’s story continues. He did not take the offer. According to his account, the agents gave up and left the school grounds. „[We] only saw a car passing by, stopping, and then driving on. There were rumours, that someone took money for helping with the kidnapping“ – wrote Henryk Leszczynski.

Kamil Połeć, local historian from Czaplinka told us the story Ania Jankowska. Mr. Połeć is looking to learn more about the fate of Ania. A relative from the Jankowski family shared documents and photographs.

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