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Testimony of Helena Balcer

Without a date, between August 8th and 13th
         We left Warsaw on Monday, that is on August 7, 1944. Our tragedy began at that moment. We walked through a sea of flames and a mass of corpses, killed and burned. After exiting the basements, we were separated from the men. The last time I saw Lolek, my husband, was on August 7th at 10am. I do not know where he ended up with that bad fortune, and he does not know about me or about our child. We were forced to go to the Church of Saint Stanisław (Kościół św. Stanisława) and from there to Pruszków. Thanks to my initiative, we separated from the march, and we luckily managed to reach Ursus (a neighborhood of Warsaw). We spent the first night in the school. After that we stayed with an acquaintance - Ms. Kozłowska. 
        All I had was 350 zloty; I paid 170 zloty to get my shoes and Bodzio's shoes fixed; I spent the rest on bread, milk and cucumbers. I have Lolek's watch and my watch, Bodzio's cross, a ring, and two wedding rings.

Sunday, August 13
         I want to sell the watch, but I cannot find a buyer, even though one of the inspectors of the local Central Welfare Council is helping me. Today we were told that we will be receiving food for only three days - that is from Sunday until Tuesday - and I have merely 30 zloty to my name, which makes me devastated. I do not know anything about my family or about my husband.   

August 14 
        I am increasingly sensing the shortage of many things. We left that house as we were. Lolek with his white, tricot shirt, his short long johns, light-colored suit and gray working clothes, and gaiters on his legs. I had the following: a set of pink underwear, an old gray dress, a light-colored overcoat and a gray sweater, gray shoes and, how awful, patched stockings. Bodzio: a very worn white shirt, satin underwear, a red shirt, gray shorts, a gray shirt and long pants, worn shoes without stockings, a gray overcoat and a beret. The poor boy grabbed his basket with dried bread and wanted to take the sack too, but I did not give it to him.
Today Bodzio is sick; he has a fever of 37.5 degrees Celsius. Ms. Kozłowska gave him a purgative; maybe the fever will pass; we will see. I go to get soup three times a day, which takes up almost the entire day. 

August 15
        Thank God Bodzio's fever went down and that he is healthy again; I was already in despair. I cannot sell anything; I do not know how we will live. We were supposed to get soup only until today, but I asked the inspector and he said that they have a very small supply, but tough, we should come get more. So maybe we have an extension on our existence, for a couple days.

August 16
         They are still somehow giving us soup. The day has passed without any special events; again a new registration was done; many people went away. 

August 22
        The situation with my watch appears rather unclear; I was supposed to get the money today, but somehow nothing worked out. Today I signed up for digging trenches. I am going to have to leave Bodzio at home; I am very worried about him.

August 24
         Today I received the money for the watch: 1,900 zloty. I used this money to pay off my debt to Ms. Szwedzińska, from Warsaw, 262 zloty, and the 100 zloty that I borrowed in Ursus; that is, 362 zloty in all. Yesterday I was in the trenches; I managed somehow. I still do not know anything about Lolek or about my family. Today I got very angry at Bogdan. I spent the following money: 2 kg of flour for 100 zloty; bread for 45 zloty; tomatoes, pears and apples for 27 zloty; that is, 172 zloty in all.

September 26
I sold my beloved ring for a pittance - 800 zloty. A gram of gold supposedly costs 350 zl. Nine hundred fifty zloty is all the money I have. I have to save up, otherwise we will be in a very bad situation. Shoes for Bodzio worry me very much; it has become very cold and wet; the kid will get sick; he already complains about headaches, especially in the evenings. 
         We stayed by ourselves; we have a terrible sense of longing and things are bad. Generally, I am overcome by a dark despair; the cold is coming, and I do not have anything for the winter. If a bullet does not kill me, then winter will kill us; we do not have enough clothes, fuel, or money.  
         Bodzio himself got glass out of his leg, which had gotten stuck in there all the way back in Warsaw; that is, some two and a half months ago. Warsaw accidents continue to last.

October 13
I sold Bodzio's cross. I got 2000 zloty for it. I bought 1.5 m of material for a skirt and for pants for Bodzio, rabbit skin for the collar; I paid 40 zloty. I also bought thread, hooks and eyes, pins, for which I paid 105 zloty; meat for 98 zloty; soap for 45 zloty; one kg of sugar for 100 zloty. Now the Central Welfare Council is giving us soup once a day, and it is very poor soup. It is the end of Warsaw. A week ago I was assigned to trenches; so the first day went quite well, but on the second day there were accidents involving people, so I became very frightened and I ran away from there, even though people took advantage of the shovels, using them as passes and going to Warsaw to loot what they could.


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  The project is implemented by the Museum of Warsaw in cooperation with the State Archives of City of Warsaw, and the Niedersachsische Gedenkstatten Foundation