"During the occupation I wasn’t scared too often, because I had this conviction that I would survive"
When I was caught at Umschlagplatz, my grandma heard my crying and she went out of her hideout and replaced me. She told this, most likely, Jewish policeman that she will stay there while I fetch my shoes - Katarzyna Meloch, a Warsaw Ghetto survivor, told Magda Łucyan from "Fakty" TVN, the author of the series of conversations entitled: "The Ghetto".
The series of conversations with the Warsaw Ghetto survivors was conducted to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that falls on the 19th of April.
After her parents were killed, Katarzyna Meloch was taken to an orphanage in the Białystok Ghetto. She was nine years old at the time. Six months later she was transported to the Warsaw Ghetto, where her uncle was living. She managed to escape to the Aryan side thanks to Żegota (Polish Council to Aid Jews with the Government Delegation for Poland).
Although she was young child at the time, Ms Meloch remembered many images from the time of occupation. For instance, the propaganda posters that the Germans hanged around the city.
"There were those terrible posters: 'Jews. Lice. Typhus'. Those posters showed those awful-looking people, "those" Jews, the lice… It was horrible. It was… well, it was terrifying," she shared in conversation with "Fakty" TVN reporter Magda Łucyan.
"I was nine years old when I found myself in the Białystok Ghetto. My mother, before she was taken away by the German or Ukrainians, had been hammering into my head that I should find Jacek - her brother and my uncle. Obviously, I memorized it, his address was Elektoralna 12," she recalled.
Katarzyna Meloch said that "the Białystok Ghetto was quite horrible because of the terrible hunger". "As a matter of fact, it was the first and only time when I experienced such hunger," she admitted.
She also remembered well the circumstances that gave her a chance to relocate to Warsaw. "One time, I’ve overheard the overseers talking. According to them, someone was going to the Warsaw Ghetto. In secrecy of course, as we weren’t allowed to travel. Then I said resolutely that I also wanted to go and that I also had someone I knew in the Warsaw Ghetto," she said. "I wrote to Jacek and let him know where I was. He sent over a woman who specialized in transporting Jewish children for money," explained Ms Meloch.
She said that at the time her parents were already dead, but she wasn’t really certain of it and couldn’t accept the sad truth. "It’s possible that as a child I couldn’t accept that. I even remember that after the war, during one of the interviews with psychologists, I wrote that I wished my parents would be found," she explained.
"I only knew a part of the ghetto, because as a child I was protected by my relatives," she admitted. "I think they didn’t want to me see or understand everything that was going on. And they succeeded," she added. "My fate in the Warsaw Ghetto wasn’t a typical one. Actually, my fate wasn’t the worst. I didn’t suffer hunger, I didn’t live in the streets and I didn’t see the death of my relatives. They were dying but I didn’t see it and didn’t know about it. So it was a kind of a better fate," said the survivor.
Katarzyna Meloch recalled also when she got caught and was very close to being put on a cattle train car at Umschlagplatz from where people were being sent to gas chambers.
"When I was caught at Umschlagplatz, my grandma heard my crying and she went out of her hideout and replaced me. She told this, most likely, Jewish policeman that she will stay there while I fetch my shoes. It was some story she made up, complete nonsense," she said. "I think she managed to convince him, because he agreed to let me get away," she added.
Her grandmother also managed to escape death on that occasion. "My uncle worked in the Jewish hospital, which was right next to the Umschlagplatz. Her brother and my uncle, he took her out from there and she returned to Elektoralna after some time. She died soon after but under completely different circumstances," said Ms Meloch.
The ghetto survivor also revealed to Magda Łucyan that, during the German occupation, she "wasn’t scared too often". "I had this conviction that I would survive. It was irrational. I’ve no idea how a child could have something like that inside but that’s what it was," she stressed.
Katarzyna Meloch was asked about the message that she would like to pass on to the younger generations. "Let them know the things that happened. However, they must draw the conclusions themselves," she replied. "It needs to be noted, however, that the whole world allowed all this to happen. That there was no resistance on the part of the great empires or various organizations. That the world accepted that genocide," she emphasized. "Everyone should try to figure out individually what good can they do, as we cannot rely on states, empires or politicians," said the ghetto survivor.