Janina Dawid was born on 19 March 1930 in Kalisz as Janina Dawidowicz. An only child, daughter of Marek and Celia Dawidowicz. Her parents owned a mill in Kalisz and residential buildings which they rented to tenants. Janina Dawid's family was not religious, but they celebrated Jewish holidays and Janina Dawid attended a Jewish school for some time.
In September 1939, together with her grandparents, Janina Dawid left for Warsaw. Her father spent some time in the east of Poland, but after a failed attempt of his wife and daughter to return to Kalisz he joined them in Warsaw.
After the Warsaw ghetto was established, the family lived in Nowolipki. Marek Dawidowicz worked in the Jewish police, his mother sold off her clothes and ran the house. In 1943, before the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Dawidowicz family left their daughter with a pre-war friend of Marek, Lidia and her husband, Eryk, who had moved to Poland from Germany before the outbreak of the war. Celia Dawidowicz was probably murdered during the liquidation of the ghetto, while Marek managed to escape. He died during his stay with guerrilla fighters in the Lublin region.
Eryk, abandoned by his wife, placed the girl in a monastery in Płudy, but after his arrest by the Gestapo Janina Dawid was transferred to the Congregation of the Family of Mary, then residing in Warsaw.
There Janina Dawid survived the occupation. During the Warsaw Uprising, together with other children and the nuns, she was taken out of the burning capital by an unknown German officer, and then stayed in Kostowiec. Found by Eryk, she returned to Kalisz, where she met her mother's brother, the only surviving member of the family.
In November 1946, after a temporary stay in an orphanage in Zabrze, she left for France. From there, she moved to Australia and after graduating from school and university she settled in the UK. She has been writing from the 1970s. She also participated in the preparation of feature and documentary films based on her biography.
Recording circumstances description
Interview was recorded at Janina Dawid’s house in suburb of London.
- Family and childhood before the war, September 1939 in Kalisz and Warsaw, living in the Warsaw Ghetto; 00:00:30
- Education and parents’ work before the war, father's work in the Jewish police, 10:10
- Liquidation of the ghetto, meeting father’s friend - Lidia, visiting Lidia's apartment, living with Eryk - Lidia's husband and children; 00:11:30
- Eryk’s arrest, staying at the monastery in Płudy, leaving the monastery, a visit by the Gestapo, releasing Eryk, the monastery of the Congregation of the Family of Mary in Warsaw; 00:14:47
- Hiding Jewish women by nuns, attending Catholic services, singing in choir, living conditions in the Congregation; 00:21:36
- Music, dance and ballet classes in the order, housing conditions in the Congregation; 00:24:40
- The beginning of the Warsaw Uprising, the establishment of a hospital in the building of the Congregation, shelters during the Uprising, a visit of a German officer during the Uprising, taking the orphans out of burning Warsaw by the Germans; 00:27:33
- A film about the history of Janina Dawid's rescue, hope to find the German officer, cooperation with the German film crew and controversies about filming the episodes of life in the ghetto, shooting the film in the Czech Republic, work on documentaries and a visit to Poland; 00:37:54
- The fate of the nuns and children after the uprising, stay in Kostowiec, entry of the Red Army, revealing the true identity, being found by Eryk, return to Kalisz, being found by the mother's brother, staying in a Jewish orphanage in Zabrze and leaving for France, staying in a refugee centre; 00:48:50
- Cruise to Australia, work in a factory, study in Australia, university studies, return to France, departure to the UK; 01:01:30
- The parents' families, family house, Jewish school, Jewish holidays, religious practices of family members; 01:06:03
- Anti-Semitism in Kalisz before the war, searching for the family in Kalisz after the war; 01:09:24
- Stay at the Centre for Rescued Jewish Children in Zabrze; 01:13:40
- Living conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto; 01:17:26
- Father's work in the Jewish police, father's participation in a conspiracy in the ghetto, father's stay with a guerrilla unit in the Lublin region, liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto; 01:19:04
- Liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto; 01:24:31
- Eryk and his marriage, arresting Eryk after the war, Lidia's escape to Germany and Argentina; 01:26:50
- Stay in Płudy, participation in Catholic rituals; 01:29:13
- Religious beliefs; 01:32:57
- Contacts with friends and the nuns in Poland, visits to Poland after the war; 01:34:12
- Polish-Jewish relations during the war and nowadays, the Jewish community in London; 01:36:16
- National and civic identity, language and travel in Germany, promotion of books and correspondence with readers; 01:42:40