Born: February 8, 1926
Nowe Miasto, Poland
Janina's parents had converted from Judaism to Catholicism in the 1920s. When Janina was 4 years old, her parents divorced; Janina left Warsaw and went to live with her father near the Polish town of Radom, while her brother Tomas remained in Warsaw with his mother. Janina, or Jana as she was affectionately known, loved to read.
1933-39: When Jana was 12 she moved back to Warsaw to attend secondary school, and stayed with her mother. A year later, on September 8, 1939, the Germans were bombing Warsaw. Thinking it might be safer downtown, they rushed to stay at her aunt's apartment. But on September 25 as Jana stood on one side of the living room in her apartment, and her cousins and their 3-month-old baby stood on the other, a bomb fell through the ceiling, killing them.
1940-44: The Nazis persecuted converted Jews, so Jana, her mother and brother hid at a convent near Warsaw. But Jana so missed studying that she returned to the city. Once, Jana and some half-Jewish friends were changing streetcars at a stop just outside the ghetto. They were grabbed and asked by the Germans why, as "Jewish children," they were leaving the ghetto. "We're not Jewish!" they answered. But the Germans said they could tell they were by looking at them. Jana showed them papers from the convent school, saying, "If I were, would I go to a Catholic school?"
The Germans released Jana and her friends. Jana graduated from secondary school in Warsaw in 1943. She lived in Poland until 1971, when she immigrated to the United States.