Chaja Kozlowski

Chaja Kozlowski

Born: May 15, 1922

Iwie, Poland

Chaja was the eldest of four children born to a middle-class Jewish family in the northeastern Polish town of Iwie. Her father earned his living as a blacksmith. Chaja first went to a private Jewish school that taught both religious and secular subjects; in the fourth grade she transferred to a public school, and also attended Hebrew school in the afternoon.

1933-39: Chaja belonged to one of the Zionist youth organizations in Iwie. They heard lectures, often on Palestine [Yishuv], and had many sporting activities. In 1937 she graduated from high school and began learning to be a dressmaker. After the Soviets seized their region of Poland in 1939, Chaja entered the nursing school in Slonim. Before the Soviet takeover, she couldn't have afforded such an education, but higher education became subsidized by the state.

1940-42: After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Chaja returned to Iwie. In 1942 a partisan group that included her friend Ruben helped her escape from Iwie's ghetto. Chaja began working in a partisan hospital in the woods--a camouflaged cavern in the earth. They "appropriated" medical supplies from captured German stores, and performed surgeries by grease lamps. Instruments were sterilized by boiling. They used liquor as an anesthetic and salt to clean wounds. When they couldn't find a surgical saw for amputations we used a carpenter's saw.

Chaja and Ruben were married in 1942 while with the partisans. They were liberated in July 1944, and immigrated to the United States in 1949.

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