Shane Grosman

"My grandfather spoke passionately and emotionally in detail about this place. He describes the time he and his brothers, friends, and family spent on these grounds, kids running around in the open space and the castle ruins, playing soccer, and how important it was for the Jewish community."

Shane Grosman.

Having the connection made it essential for Shane Grosman to come and see Bodzentyn and other places related to his family.

Paying respect to the Dziuba family

The burial site of Stanisława Dziuba in Bodzentyn (September, 2023).

The sun's rays light up the ground, and as it is in the middle of the day, the shadows cast from the monuments at the churchyard are neither dark nor very long. We stand silent for a moment. The priest, Father Leszek Sikorski, has just recited the prayers as Shane Grosman asked him to. The others have joined in, repeating and joining voices in one chorus in "Ojcze nasz" and "Wieczny odpoczynek racz im dać Panie."

Before us is the burial site of Stanisława Dziuba; there are no inscriptions at her grave, but there will be, Father Leszek Sikorski confirms. Perhaps there will even be an inscription, "The eternal rest to the last woman from the Black Forest" (Tu spoczywa ostatnia kobieta z Czarnego Lasu) as was Stasia's final request.

Some hours later, we are on our way to see the grounds where the Dziuba farmhouse was, close to the river Czarna Woda, the dark flowing water fringing the open area of the isolated place in the forest, in Podgorze to the south of Bodzentyn.

Shane's family may not know all there is to know about the events that took place and what his grandfather Morris went through, but one thing they all know for sure: What Stanisława and the Dziuba family did for them–––providing food and shelter in times of need, even though Morris and his brother Alter and their two friends David and Avram could offer nothing in return–––made all the difference between life and death during the years when they were hiding from the Nazi Germans from 1943 to 1945.

"No one can appreciate what it really meant to them as survivors and my whole family," Shane says. Decades later, Morris and Alter offered Stanislawa to come to Canada. Still, Stasia told them that it was not for her, and also, if she left, what would happen to the farmhouse?

Józefa and Stanisława Dziuba

Following his grandfather Morris Grosman's route

Shane Grosman, tracking down his grandfather Morris Grosman’s route, visited the former blast furnace once part of the slave labour camp in Starachowice.

Shane's grandfather, Morris Grosman, was born in Bodzentyn in 1920 to Jecheel and Elke. Before the war broke out, one sister and brother went to South America. Of the remaining eight siblings, only Morris, Alter and Nutah survived.

In the early morning of our visit to Bodzentyn, we passed the upper market square and the Langiewicza street, where Shane Grosman's grandfather Morris' family operated a small grocery store and had their living quarters.

The grounds of the castle ruins look pretty much the same as back in the 1930s, with surrounding green grass, open space for leisure and a football pitch fenced on one side of the stone wall that separates the area from the church's premises.

"My grandfather spoke passionately and emotionally in detail about this place. He describes the time he and his brothers, friends, and family spent on these grounds, kids running around in the open space and the castle ruins, playing soccer, and how important it was for the Jewish community," Shane says.

In the conversations Shane has had with other survivors, Al Cislowski and Goldie Szachter, he concludes that they all say the same thing. "They all told the same story with the same emotion about how vital the grounds here were for the community, the kids, and everyone."

The Grosman family before WWII. Top-row: three unidentified brothers. Middle-row, from the left: Nutah, Fagiah, an unknown man who is probably Faigah's husband, Elke, Y'Chiel. Lower-row: Chana, an unnamed child, and Pearl.

The sense Shane got from hearing them was that the words were leading up to something when they discussed this. "Clearly, what they were leading up to is that this area was so important to them before the occupation. When the Germans came, it was evident and apparent that the freedoms that the Jews took advantage of and that brought them so much joy were the first freedoms Nazis took away from the Jews. All three said the same thing: almost instantly, freedom was taken away, and they could no longer come here to play and enjoy themselves. It was a freedom for the individual and the community. When it was taken away, it had a massive impact on them."

"I wish I had started long before I did," Shane exclaims when asked how he decided to track down his grandfather's route.

"I wish I had started long before I did," Shane exclaims when asked how he decided to track down his grandfather's route. Morris escaped from one place to another and eventually fled with his brother and two of their friends from the slave labour camp at the munitions factory and the blast furnace in Starachowice and went into hiding for two years in the forest.

Making new discoveries

Shane describes that one day at work, urging to put his mind to something else, he decided to look for his grandfather's hometown. "Morris always pronounced the name in Yiddish as 'Baizetshin', and I had a hard time getting the spelling right, but once I did, I discovered the website Bodzentyn.net."

Reviewing Morris's videotaped testimony several times, Shane realised that the information he got would result in a book. When writing and researching for Escape to Freedom, he discovered that only a few people in the family knew all that much about Bodzentyn and the surrounding area, what it was like to live there and what happened to the Jewish community. "Most of the things I presented to them were all new."

Part of summarising his grandfather's story was looking for documents to help get the chronology right. Shane waited nine months before receiving answers from the Arolsen Archives, but when it came, he had to rewrite a large portion of the book he had already written.

"For obvious reasons, it was difficult for my grandfather to remember when various events took place. But I needed to get the facts right, and I kept looking, reading and searching. I cannot describe my feelings when I discovered and understood more about what my grandfather told me in the video."

Morris is usually relatively neutral in his testimony when speaking about the past. "But you can see that he gets upset sometimes, and when he spoke about how the Germans chased and shot his friend Avram Cislowski, he was emotional," Shane says. By getting in touch with the Editor of Bodzentyn.net in 2020 and learning about Al Cislowski, Shane could share the truth about what happened to his brother Avram through his grandfather's account.

Bodzentyn, on September 9, 2023: Shane Grosman (in the middle of the picture) shared his grandfather Morris Grosman’s story with Frej and Ewa Wymark, Ewa Kolomanska, Father Leszek Sikorski and Krystyna and Michal Rachtan. After the ceremony at the Jewish cemetery, the group went to honour the Dziuba family at the Parish churchyard.

End of a journey – the start of a new book

While preparing the bouquet for Stanislawa's grave and one for the Jewish cemetery, Shane ponders how different things are in Bodzentyn from what he has learned and imagined to find when preparing and planning for the journey.

The connection to the experience made it essential for Shane to see it himself. "I thought somebody in the family should see where they lived and grew up," he says.

"Coming here was never something that anybody ever thought about. No one ever mentioned it. A little bit of it comes from the silence my grandfather and other survivors may have had about their experience. It was not talked about, almost like a bit of a black cloud, because of the sadness and atrocity of what happened," Shane concludes.

The connection to the experience made it essential for Shane to see it himself. "I thought somebody in the family should see where they lived and grew up," he says.

When the journey ends, the weather is still pleasant with high blue skies, and it feels almost like a blessing of the lights Shane Grosman lit at the Jewish cemetery and placed on the side of the flowers decorating Stanisława's grave. As we part, Shane says he will continue to do more research and even write a second book.

Shane Grosman and Ewa Wymark, Editor of Bodzentyn.net light a candle at Max Safir’s memorial monument at the Jewish cemetery in Bodzentyn, on September 9, 2023.

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In late 2021, Shane Grosman completed his first book, Escape to Freedom. It tells the story of his grandfather and grandmother and their experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust for Shane's family and future generations. In early 2024, Shane Grosman completed his second book, In Their Footsteps, to retrace his travel experiences from Poland in September 2023. 

Editor's note: This page has been proofread and approved by Shane Grosman, grandson of Morris Grosman. September 2023.

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