The following story was written by Felicia Stolarczyk Wertz and shared as part of the Memory Project.
I am Felicia Wertz, Izaak’s niece, residing in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Although I am not physically present at this memorial service, I feel your pain of loss.
Izaak was my closest uncle, my mother’s brother, who lived with us in Wyszkow, Poland. When the Second World War broke out, I was only two years old, and my brother Gena, who is not with us anymore, was only a year old. Our native town, Wyszkow, was bombed out, and we were forced to escape to Russia. My parents and Izaak were sent to a forced labor camp. My parents died, leaving two little orphaned children: my brother Gena and me. Izaak, then a seventeen-year-old, took responsibility for saving our lives. He found an orphanage for us, and he himself was taken away to a different place. He told me that he would sometimes come to visit me in the orphanage. We lost track of each other, but he was searching for us the entire time by writing letters to the Russian and Polish Red Cross, though he would always get the response that there were no trace of our survival.
One day, in the fall of 1961, my friend found my name in the Red Cross Search section of a Jewish paper in Warsaw. I went to the Polish Red Cross Headquarters in Warsaw and was told that Izaak Malowanczyk, an uncle of Faiga Smolarczyk (my Jewish name) and Enoch Smolarczyk (my brother’s Jewish name) had been searching for us since the end of the war! When we met in November of 1961, after so many years, he cried and told me I looked like his sister, who was my mother. Then the next question was, “What happened to your brother?” To the best of my recollection, I told him I saw my brother being taken by a strange woman, meaning that he had been adopted. By a miracle, I found my brother in Russia. We brought him to Poland, and Izaak took him in as his own son; that was one of his greatest good deeds (mitzvoth, as it is called in the Bible) of his life. I owe him my survival. I will always remember that. Unfortunately, neither my brother nor Izaak are with us anymore.
I saw Izaak last year when he was hospitalized and a year before. In May of 2006, we sat in his apartment overlooking the sea, and I asked him endless questions about my parents. I took notes, which I now use in my Holocaust memory-writing class. All my family knows about his mitzvah, and my daughters and their father express great gratitude. Izaak’s kindness was boundless. He was a good husband and father, he raised six children, and he had many devoted friends. Izaak was a righteous human being, and I will always remember him, talk about him to students, and write about him as an example of a human being who, in spite of all the adversities of war horrors, always kept his warm Yiddish heart open for all of us..
(August 28, 2009)
[This eulogy was read at my Uncle Izaak Malowanczyk’s funeral in Copenhagen in August 2009. Izaak Malowanczyk was my mother’s youngest brother. My mother died in Russia at the age of twenty-eight, and Uncle Izaak took care of my brother and me, ages four and five.]