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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Polanski: A Biography

Christopher Sandford

St. Martin's Griffin


Early on the morning of 14 March 1943, the Krakow ghetto was finally liquidated. It was exactly a month since [Roman's mother] Bula Polanski had disappeared; the destruction of families "one Jew at a time" was specifically encouraged in the German plan. [His father] Ryszard was able to smuggle Romek [Roman] out of the immediate area, [his friend] Stefan being left to his fate, before the SS came for him. From there the 9-year-old took to his heels, crossing Podgorze Bridge and riding the tram out of town to the [neighboring] Wilks, who happened to have been away. Unsure of what to do next, Romek doubled back to the bridge, where he found a column of men being marched off to the waiting trains. Among them was Ryszard.

Romek came as close as he dared and gestured to his father. As the long line of prisoners went by, Ryszard was able to slip back through the ranks to a position furthest away from the guards. Like all the detainees, he had had his tie, belt, and shoelaces removed. It was standard procedure.

For several seconds, the irregular-looking squad shuffled on in silence towards the wagons. Then Ryszard's lips moved, though just barely, and he spoke in a voice so low that Romek had to strain to hear it from six feet away.

"Zjezdzaj," he said. "Get lost."

This was the backdrop at the time Romek Wilk, as he styled himself, went into permanent hiding in the spring of 1943. It was hard to say which was worse, the war situation or his own predicament. Either way, he was alone