Strange, is it not, how lives intersect? Such was the case of Krystina Chirowski and Leopold Socha. Krystina was just a little girl living with her mama and papa and brother, Pawel, in the city of Lwow, Poland, and Leopold happened to be a sanitation worker in the same city. Lwow, home to more than 200,000 Jews, was occupied by the Nazis in the early summer of 1941, and a Jewish ghetto was quickly established. Leopold watched in horror as the Nazis piled atrocity upon atrocity, and he determined to befriend the imprisoned Jews and aid them if possible.
Then came the fateful day in the spring of 1943 when the Aktion commenced to liquidate the ghetto. Krystina’s father, in a frenzied attempt to save his family, led them to the basement and lowered them into the sewer below, intending to try and reach the river. And who should be working in the sewer that very day but Leopold Socha?
He quickly advised the Chirowski family and others that the river was swarming with Gestapo; if they wanted to live, they must remain in the sewers! Leopold enlisted the aid of his co-worker, Stefan Wroblewski, and they and their wives fed and clothed the hidden Jews for more than a year. Sadly the filth and stench and rats took their toll, and as deaths occurred, Leopold and Stefan even managed to remove the bodies and give them decent burials.
On July 27, 1944, Lwow was liberated, and stunned onlookers watched as a proud Leopold led his little flock out of hell and into the light above. Ten of the 21 Jews he cared for had survived, and that night, they celebrated together over dinner in the Socha home. Leopold and Magdalena Socha were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 1978, and Stefan Wroblewski and his wife were similarly recognized in 1981.
And what of little Krystina and her family? Against all odds, they survived, and many years later, Krystina would write The Girl in the Green Sweater, an account of the time when the life of a little seven-year-old was miraculously touched by that of an unknown sewer worker.