Stories of rescuers: Zdzisław and Zofia Bielińscy

ID: 210
Story of Zdzisław and Zofia Bielińscy ellaborates on social roles variability during wartime and the issue of szmalcownictwo, that was often an obstacle in attempts to help Jews.

The story is a part of the theme Reactions of Lvivians to Holocaust, which was prepared within the program The Complicated Pages of Common History: Telling About World War II in Lviv.

Zofia and Zdzisław Bielińscy were a well-known medical family in interwar Lviv. Zdzisław was an associate professor of physiology at the Medical Faculty of Lviv University, and Zofia worked as his assistant. Maintaining contacts with students of different nationalities, they publicly opposed the introduction of the practice of numerus clausus in universities. The Bielińscy were fascinated by socialist ideas, and their house was a meeting place for Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish left-wing intellectuals. During the Nazi occupation, the couple lived on ul. Czarneckiego (now vul. Vynnychenka).

Realizing the mortal threat, Bieliński began to help his Jewish acquaintances. "We helped because racial discrimination was hateful to us, because we felt solidarity with the persecuted, we hated fascism, and finally simply because we were Poles," Zofia Bielińska wrote after the war.

Zdzisław got a job at a municipal hospital, where there were two so-called "Jewish wards." Severely ill, exhausted Jews from the Yanivsky forced labour camp were brought there. Bieliński did his best to keep them in the hospital as long as possible. The doctor also visited the Lviv ghetto, wearing an armband with the Star of David, to pass on food and medicine to his Jewish acquaintances. Among others, he assisted Jerzy Zieliński, Seweryn Bruh-Żurawicki, Janina Żurawicka, and Alfred Voegel. From May 1943, when the persecution of Jews reached its apogee, Bieliński temporarily hid ghetto fugitives in his hospital, in his private medical office, and at home. By filling in fictitious patient cards, he saved time looking for hiding places for them. In addition, the Bielińscy provided financial support to the Jews hiding in the "Aryan" part of the city.

Bieliński also assisted his research mentor, Doctor of Physiology, Professor Adolf Beck (1863–1942). He looked for safe hiding places for him, and after the professor was exposed by the szmalcowniki, he transported him to his hospital. However, a few days later, Adolf Beck was arrested by the Gestapo. To avoid deportation and violent death, the professor committed suicide by taking a capsule of cyanide.

Zdzisław Bieliński's life ended unexpectedly and tragically: he died at the hands of the Polish underground on February 8, 1945, receiving a letter with an explosive. Bieliński was accused of collaborating with the Soviet regime because in 1939-41 he headed the Medical Faculty, and in 1944, after the arrival of the Red Army, he became deputy chairman of the Union of Patriots of Poland (Związek Patriotów Polski, ZPP). Representatives of the ZPP openly supported the establishment of Soviet rule in Poland and also participated in the organization of the forced resettlement of Poles from Lviv and Western Ukraine.

Zofia Bielińska also suffered from a letter with an explosive, but survived and moved to Warsaw after the war. She worked at the Institute of Food Hygiene. The Bielińscy were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations on September 21, 1989.

All stories



Vul. Pidvalna – Vynnychenka Street Greenway (formerly Governor’s Ramparts)

Show full description



1. Ewa Opawska, "Historia Pomocy — Rodzina Bielińskich", Polscy Sprawiedliwi (accessed on 13.11.2018).
2. Maria Kuryluk, "Zdzisław Bieliński", (extracts published in: Ewa Kuryluk, Frascati, Krakow, 2009, ss. 176–184.)

Anna Chebotariova
Translated by Andriy Masliukh