Alfreda Markowska

She was born on 10 May 1926 in Stanisławów. Her parents came from the nomadic Polish Roma (Polska Roma). A Romani group famous for horse trading in the Second Republic.  She remembers her childhood as a time of abundance,  halcyon days. She married when she was fifteen. She liked her husband a lot, although he had two vices – he neither drank nor smoked. For her it meant leading a life next to an unsociable man. However, with time he more than made up for his imperfections. Both before the War and during the War their camp comprised around 100 people.  This guaranteed security and support in difficult situations. After Nazi troops entered the territory of modern Ukraine,  nationalists became more active, and bloody pogroms of Poles, Jews and Gypsies became a gruesome reality. Fearing the Ukrainian nationalists, the whole Gypsy camp crossed the Bug River hoping it would help them survive the dangerous times. And  times were difficult. Even now, after so many years, Alfreda, called by many people Granny Noncia (Babcia Noncia), sometimes interrupts her story and sheds bitter tears.

That unforgettable day was no different than others. The Gypsies set up their camp on the outskirts of a forest, close to Biała Podlaska. Noncia left the camp early to get some food, as is customary among Romani women. She tried to avoid nearby villages, hoping it would be easier to earn some money in places not reached by other Gypsy women from the camp. She remembers reaching one place where, almost in each home, people wanted her to do some card reading. Proud of herself and loaded with a massive bundle of bread, potatoes, meat, even tobacco and hooch, she returned to the camp. However, what she found was only the smouldering ruins of caravans and tents. Roma victims murdered by the Germans lay in freshly-dug graves. That day, her parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles were slaughtered – all  relatives belonging to one of the largest Romani tribes. For a few days, she was searching nearby forests for pogrom survivors. Her husband was the only lucky person who was not murdered in this brutal massacre, only because he was with relatives in Rozwadów (a suburb of present-day Stalowa Wola ). She united with her husband and stayed in Rozwadów where they were employed as railway workers. Noncia decided to reunite her family. She searched for children survivors in all the places ravaged by German troops, and succeeded in finding them in  forests and mouldered shacks. She was sometimes able to find families of children who were non-Roma. At times, she had to provide for several children. She answers  questions reluctantlyon how she managed to feed all her young ones.  Moreover, she was even capable to rescue a few children from  trains passing by Rozwadów, going to death camps. Her dream of a huge family came true. Today, all her dear ones amount to a few hundred people.

On 17 October 2006, she was honoured with the Knight’s Cross with Star by the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, for her bravery, sacrifice and fierce determination to save lives of many children.