What did Franciszek Rzottky, the hero known only as ‘Edek’ for 75 years, really look like…? First picture coming Monday 20th May 2019.
we found him!
For 75 years Janine has been hoping to find Edek, to thank him for saving her life. As she was so young at the time, she can’t remember much about him. From her Uncle Selig’s memoir, she knew he survived the Second World War and went to university in Krakow. But the trail came to an end there.
Until April 2019 when we finally discovered who ‘Edek’ was…
You see, Edek wasn’t his real name. He had to use a false identity during the war. His real name was Franciszek Rzottky.
SO WHO WAS FRANCISZEK RZOTTKY?
Franciszek Rzottky was born in 1923 in Pawlowice, Silesia in southern Poland. He became a military cadet in his teens but soon after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he and his brother Florian were sent to a forced labour camp in Germany. Daringly, they escaped and joined the Polish underground resistance. It was highly dangerous work and their older sister Floriana helped get them false identities.
And this is when Franciszek became ‘Edek’!
His brother changed his name too, from Florian to Kazik.
how did franciszek rescue janine?
Franciszek’s sister got him and his brother daytime jobs as ‘cover’ for their Resistance work in Lvov, eastern Poland. As a Sister Superior in the Albertine Order, she had been sent by the Catholic Church to look after a convent there. She had to find some staff to watch over the Persenkowka estate - the land on which the convent was built. And so Franciszek and Florian, now known only as Edek and Kazik, were given the job. They used Persenkowka as a base for their underground operations, which included smuggling a group of 15 Jews, including Janine, Aunt Rouja and Uncle Selig, in a bunker beneath a stable there.
In his own statement about his actions during the Holocaust, written in 1951, Franciszek lists the people he saved. One of them was Janine.
Eventually, he was caught by the Nazis in 1944 and sent to a concentration camp called Gross-Rosen. But once again, he heroically escaped and went to hide in the Sudates Mountains until the war was over.
We don’t know what else he achieved during the war, but we do know that Franciszek was aided by a courageous couple in Krakow called Tadeusz and Janina Lewandowski. It was with the Lewandowksis’ money that he was able to buy food for Janine and all the others in that bunker for a total of two years.
WHAT BECAME OF franciszek AFTER THE WAR?
He went to university in Krakow in 1947 - still aged only 24. In 1952 he graduated with a Master’s degree in Law. It’s quite hard to believe that this incredible action hero then became… an accountant. Perhaps he had had enough excitement for one lifetime!
Franciszek lived in Krakow for the rest of his life. He never married or had children and sadly, died in 1972 aged only 49. But in 1997, he was posthumously made a “Righteous Among Nations” - a highly prestigious award given to rescuers of Jewish people during the Holocaust. His sister Floriana was still alive at the time - 90 years old and still a nun - and she attended the ceremony in Jerusalem. She also gave her own story, testifying that she had no idea Franciszek was hiding Jews on that estate in Lvov (which today is part of Ukraine not Poland). We will never know the truth. But for sure, Sister Floriana knew Franciszek was a Resistance fighter operating under a false identity and did everything she could to protect him. In her story, she talks about having meetings with him in the middle of the night, so that noone else could hear them talk.
What an incredible family of “Upstanders”.
Whilst Janine is sad she never got to thank the man who saved her life, she’s happy to know all the facts now. Her 75-year old search has come to a successful close. In the summer of 2019, she will plant a white rose in Franciszek’s honour in the beautiful memorial gardens at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Laxton, Nottinghamshire.
“Righteous Among The Nations” award made to Franciszek Rzottky aka “Edek” on 25th March 1997 - twenty five years after his death.
Extract from Franciszek Rzottky’s sworn war statement , made in 1951 in Kraków, Poland. Listed are the people he saved from the Nazis, including the 11 year old Janine.