"My life cries out loud, it cries so that no child ever has to suffer like that"
"I felt danger. I knew that I was in danger and that I could have died at any minute. I always thought that I was going to be next. Actually I was expecting death. I’m no longer sure if I was scared," - a survivor from the Warsaw Ghetto, Krystyna Budnicka told Magda Łucyan, a reporter from "Fakty" TVN and the author of the series of conversations: "The Ghetto". "No, I didn’t cry then and I don’t cry today. I don’t have tears," she revealed.
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.
Krystyna Budnicka was taken to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940, she was 8 years old at the time. She spent 3.5 years in the enclosed district, including 9 months underground. She was the only member of her 10-person family who survived.
"I spent 3.5 years in the ghetto and it was constantly changing. Both the way the ghetto looked and the experiences it brought. Sometimes I was above the ground, other times I was below," Krystyna Budnicka told „Fakty” TVN reporter Magda Łucyan. Asked about the memories that she still has, Ms Budnicka replied: "the first associations that come to my mind are poverty, the streets, the people - hungry, begging people. Not only did I see all that, but I was soaking it up with all my senses. Not only with my eyes. You would feel it all the time. For me, it was over 3 years… 3.5 years in isolation, in restriction, with no access to school, no contact with my peers," she said.
Ms Budnicka remembered well the overpowering sense of danger and "that overwhelming fear" that came along with it. "All that time someone would die. I had a really big family, six brothers and one sister. I was the youngest in the house," she said. She was the only one who survived the occupation.
"I would feel what was happening with all the pores in my skin. Later on, in the second part, so to speak, there was this paralyzing hunger that would knock you off your feet. We would lie around in what seemed like drowsiness or vegetation just to stay alive," she explained.
"My family wasn’t trying to escape to the Aryan side. Why? Because they wouldn’t stand a chance," said Ms Budnicka. "It was an orthodox family, not rich, not wealthy. We had no one we could turn to. We weren’t assimilated so we didn’t have any friends on the Aryan side. But above all else, we all looked, how to say… darker. Some would say that our 'looks' were giving away our identity. So, we wouldn’t have any chances," she underscored.
Krystyna Budnicka admitted that her family was deeply touched by the humiliation they had suffered from the hands of the Germans.
"I know that my father was very upset by being forced to wear an armband (yellow badges with the Star of David), as well as when some soldier cut off half of his beard and danced around. I remember that it was very hard to accept for our family," she said. "I felt danger," she added. "I knew that I was in danger and that I could have died at any minute. I always thought that I was going to be next. Actually I was expecting death. I’m no longer sure if I was scared," Ms Budnicka said.
It was January 1943 when Krystyna Budnicka went into the underground of the ghetto. "I came out, so to say, in September 1943. We survived the uprising when everything was in flames. We ran away through the sewers. Basically, the sewer saved us, in a sense that when the ghetto was burning, all the walls were so hot that we couldn’t stay in the so-called bunkers. So, until the walls would have cooled down, we had to stay in the sewers, on wooden planks. However, very often, the Germans would throw gas bombs into the sewers, so it wasn’t all just peaceful sitting," she recalled. "We would run away to hide inside those 'hot ovens'. It was a month of constant jumping between bunkers and sewer," she added.
Asked about her memories from the time spent in the sewers, Krystyna Budnicka said that wasn’t even sure if she was alive. "I was the only child there. Food rations were meant strictly for survival, only to keep us alive. I remember that there was a bag of barley and we used to cook the so-called spit-soup," she explained. She also remembered that during the time she had spent in hiding, she felt „like a person in lethargy, mostly asleep or lying down, only running away in the face of danger".
"I’m not sure if I felt anything. I think I wasn’t even afraid anymore. The hunger caused damage to my life functions," she said.
"I didn’t cry then and I don’t cry today. I don’t have tears," Ms Budnicka emphasized. "I did not cry. I did not mourn over my family. I have no graves to visit. But I speak about them now and they are alive, because I think of them and I can see them in my memory," she added.
The ghetto survivor was asked about the message she would like pass on to young people. "First and foremost, knowledge about what had happened. Knowledge, authentic knowledge, not falsified. Especially nowadays, where there are certain circles that question the Holocaust. Furthermore, that one man can hurt another man, that people can turn each other into orphans, cast loneliness and suffering onto each other, while having no rights to do so," she replied. "My life cries out loud, it cries so that no child ever has to suffer like that, no matter what color or race. The suffering feels the same for all children, to all human beings. No one ever deserves such suffering," she added.
"It’s a miracle that I’m still alive," Krystyna Budnicka told Magda Łucyan. "Often ask or wonder, why it was me who had survived. I haven’t done anything to deserve life, I didn’t even fight. Nothing," she said.
"I think that I survived to give testimony of the things that can happen," said Krystyna Budnicka.
Autor: gf / Źródło: tvn24
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: tvn24