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Prior to World War Two, seven-year-old Krystyna and her four-year-old brother Pawelek led a happy life with their parents Jerzy and Peppa Chiger in Lvov. The City had the third largest Jewish community in Poland and was known as both a cultural and industrial center.

But when the Nazis stormed into the country and took control of Lvov, in June, 1941, extremely harsh anti-Jewish measures were immediately put into action. During the summer, thousands of Lvov Jews were killed during a series of massacres. By December, 1941, the Nazis forced the city's 150,000 Jews into the newly established ghetto and brutality accelerated with murder, violence and terror.

The Nazis enacted their usual pattern of confiscation of Jewish property, personal humiliations and deprivations of every sort, forced labor, and deportation to KZ camps. The Ghetto's last few thousand inhabitants were removed in June 1943 after the rest had been deported to extermination in the death camp Belzec.

But the Chiger family miraculously managed to escape the liquidation of the ghetto by hiding in stench and darkness in the sewage-filled sewers of Lvov for 14 months amid rats, filth, and the constant pounding of rushing water. When heavy rain fell, the water nearly reached the ceiling of the sewer and Krystyna and Pawelek's parents had to hold their children above the waterline so they could breathe. They had to pick off each day's lice and cope with dysentery.

The Chiger family found an unlikely savior in a seemingly ordinary Polish sewer worker, Leopold Socha. Sir Martin Gilbert tells in his great book The Righteous how Leopold Socha in his pre-war life as a black-marketeer and thief had long been familiar with the sewers as a hiding place for his stolen goods. Now he took 21 of the Jews whom he found in the sewer to one of his subterranean hiding places, telling them to stay put.

Leopold Socha brought them food every day, always by different manholes so as not to arouse suspicion. He also brought them a Jewish prayer book which he had found in the now deserted ghetto. Each week Socha would take the dirty clothes of those in hiding and return them washed. 

For months the Chiger family faced the constant danger of discovery but they survived in the sewer hide-out until liberation.

Some months later, their rescuer Leopold Socha was accidentally killed, run over by a truck in the streets of Lvov.




 

 

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