Wieluń, Poland

 

 

THE STORY OF MY FATHERíS LIFE, by Kerry Martin

 

 

 

My father was Mordko Krzepicki, a Polish Jew from Wielun, Poland.

He came to Melbourne, Australia after WW11. He met my mother, a third generation Australian of Scottish heritage, at work at the Commonwealth Clothing Factories where they both worked as tailors. He married my mother in December 1951 and died 8 months later. I was born 4 months after his death in December 1952.

When I was a child, my mum talked about my fatherís experience in Siberian labor camps, of eating meager rations of black bread before it was stolen, of marching through heavy snow, and of chewing on pine needles to strengthen his teeth which began to loosen. She also talked about my fatherís desire to put the past behind him and to start a new life in Australia.

My parents were married in the Church of England in a ceremony conducted by a member of my motherís family.

I have thought about looking for more information about my father at various times. When I was in my mid twenties, I traveled on the Trans Siberian railway, day dreaming about the passing scenery, and wondering if I was close to where my father had been during the war.

But I was busy, so I shelved my research plans. After all, I had not known my father. My mother had little information to share. I was raised with little or no contact with the Jewish or Polish communities. All I had were some small photos and some yellowing papers. The research would have to wait.

Much later, two chance meetings whetted my appetite for more information.

The first was at a meeting of the Friends of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop where I met the Polish husband of a weaver from Lodz. He gave me some leads about my fatherís military service. I followed these up researching in the State Library and the Holocaust Museum library. (General Anders) But, as before my efforts petered out before I had much information.

The second was a chance meeting at the Australian Open Tennis in 2007. I got talking to the lady sitting next to me who recommended the Yad Vashem website as a good place to start.

This is when I really started my family research. Somehow it was the right time.

My objective was to find out what life was like in Poland for my father in his first thirty years, from his birth in August 1909 to his departure after 1 September 1939.

When I started, all I had was a bunch of documents, including my parentís marriage certificate, my fatherís naturalization papers, deed poll papers, his landing permit, and some wartime photos as well as a few photos taken during my parentís short marriage.

The Victorian Branch of the Jewish Genealogical Society was helpful, pointing me in new directions, including many databases and new sources of information.

I accessed the Australian National Archive files and other on-line databases. But I was unable to put it all together without some help with languages. A Warsaw-based researcher helped me obtain my fatherís birth and marriage certificates from the Wielun USC.

I found some relatives of my father in Melbourne! Two of my fatherís first cousins, nephews of his mother, had migrated to Australia in 1939. They changed their names from Mordke and Dawid Fajwlowicz to Mark and David Lovett. My grandmother and their father were brother and sister.

I am still trying to find out how many siblings my father had and whether they were in Wieluń in those days. I have found a younger brother, Abram Dawid who, according to the Wieluń Yizkor Book, was arrested for communist activities prior to WW11.

I have managed to piece together some of what happened to my father after the outbreak of WW11. After the bombing of Wieluń, my father fled east towards the Soviet Union, believing that the women in his family would be safe. He left behind his wife, Fela Habelska (they married in 1935) and his parents, Szmul Krzepicki and Chana Krzepicka (nee Fajwlowicz). My father was arrested later in 1939 and imprisoned in Siberia. I am still trying to find out the place/places where he was imprisoned for the next two years. The records of the USSR are apparently not as detailed as some other records.

My father was released in 1941 after the Polish/Soviet agreement. He joined the Polish Army under General Anders and undertook training in Palestine. He served in Italy, including the Battle of Monte Cassino. He was in Northern Italy at the end of the war, and was repatriated to the United Kingdom. He spent the next couple of years in the UK, found some work as a tailor. He refused to return to Poland, but he did return to Europe to search for his wife and other family.

He found that his wife and her sister had survived the war despite spending some time in Auschwitz and Gross Rosen. He discovered that his wife had established a new relationship. He returned to the United Kingdom and applied to migrate to Australia to join his cousins.

He arrived in Melbourne in January 1949.

 

 
 

Some of the sources of information which I have used to find out information about my father, his life in Poland before WW11, and his family:

  • "The Lost", Daniel Mendelsohn, Fourth Estate, 2006

  • On-Line Visual Testimonies of the Spielberg Foundation

  • Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, Wielun

  • Yad Vashem Database of Victims

  • The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University

  • Ministry of Defence (UK) APC Polish Enquiries, Building 28B, RAF Northolt, West End Rd, Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 6NG

  • Jewish Gen/Jewish Records Indexing

  • The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, 20 Princes Gate, London, SW7 1PT

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In 2008 Kerry visited Wieluń, Lodz and several surrounding towns.  She then created a slideshow, showing her collection of photographs taken on this trip, along with her own family pictures, documents and genealogical information. 

Kerry Martin's Slideshow

Credits and thanks for the material exhibited on this page by Kerry, go to:

  1. The Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (Victoria), particularly, Lionel Sharpe, Secretary 

  2. Krystyna Duszniak, Lost Histories Jewish Family History Research, www.losthistories.com/ 

  3. Emil Krasnodebski, Polish Genealogy,  http://www.polishgenealogy.com.pl

 

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This personal account is published with the kind permission of Kerry Martin of Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

kerry@kerrymartin.com.au