“I wrote all of this to make the present generation aware that war is the greatest evil and if it does not kill, it will take away the value of life. For my generation, the war took away childhood, youth, and the best of mature years.
My wish and request to you is that you do everything in your power to avoid war, so that you do not experience its misfortunes. Build harmony and friendship and enjoy life, because it is the highest value and very fragile and easily destroyed.”
Janina Iwańska – I was born in Warsaw in 1930 and my whole life has been associated with this city. In 1939, I experienced the siege, bombing, fires and the defence of the city. Throughout the occupation, I witnessed the hanging, shooting, round-ups and arrests of people in the streets. I saw the creation of a ghetto and the murder of almost all Warsaw Jews and the burning of the entire Jewish quarter.
In August 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, I lived in Wola – a district where the slaughter of civilians was carried out. During the first six days of the Uprising, 50,000 inhabitants of Wola were murdered. Those who were not killed were taken to concentration camps and to Germany for labour.
I was transported to Auschwitz from Pruszków – the Dulag 121 transit camp. I was marked with the number 85595 and as a political prisoner with a red badge and I lived in the children’s block No. 16. In January 1945, a week before the liberation of the camp, we were led out on a death march to Wodzisław Śląski, from where we were taken in various directions. I was transported to Ravensbrück, and then to a sub-camp in Neustadt-Glewe.
There, on May 2, 1945, I regained my freedom. I returned to Warsaw on foot and exactly a year after leaving home, in August 1945, I found myself in the ruins of my city. We started to remove the rubble, rebuild Warsaw, and at the same time, living in the ruins, we tried to live a normal life. In 1950 I passed my high school diploma, in 1954 I finished my studies and started working, and in 1963 I lived in a normal flat, with water, light, gas and central heating. I was 33 years old. Fate was kind to me.