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13.09.2018

Majdanek in the family memory. The meeting with Romuald Sztaba‘s daughter

On September 12, 2018, the State Museum at Majdanek hosted Mrs Ewa Sztaba-Chmielarz, a daughter of professor Romuald Sztaba who was a prisoner of the following German concentration and extermination camps: Auschwitz, Majdanek, Gross-Rosen and Leitmeritz. Ewa shared with the listeners not only her personal family history, but also donated her father’s priceless memorabilia to the Museum Archives.

During the meeting at Hieronim Łopaciński Lublin Provincial Library, there was presented one of the ‘most beautiful figures of the camp at Majdanek’ – that is how R. Sztaba was described by his fellow prisoners.

After the war, Romuald Sztaba as a professor at Gdańsk Medical Academy (currently the Medical University of Gdańsk) and the supervisor of Paediatric Surgery Clinic, was a well-known specialist in paediatrics, paediatric surgery and urology, a lecturer, an author of over 70 scientific articles, and a member and founder of many medical societies, many times awarded for his achievements. He was a role model and a teacher for many generations of doctors. His successor in the position of supervisor in Paediatric Surgery Clinic – professor Czesław Stoba – wrote about him in a letter commencing the meeting:

‘In the selection of assistants he had his own criteria, which apart from substantive values included also propriety, medical and non-medical interests of a candidate. He was a model of professionalism, and by personal example also an excellent academic, but also a teacher of medical humanism and moral principles. He took care to maintain a high standard of these principles. He was a representative of the generation of people who opposed the destruction of traditional morals and moral values, the ‘generation of true professors’ whose priority was to care for another human being, to respect their dignity, to serve the people and their homeland. He was awarded with the Jan Kossakowski Medal with the motto ‘SERERE NE DUBITES’ as the first paediatric surgeon in Poland, which is yet another proof of recognition of merits contributed to developing paediatric surgery and urology at all stages of their formation and development.‘

The professor's profile, as well as his contribution to saving the lives of Majdanek's prisoners, was presented by Marta Grudzińska, an employee of Research Department of the State Museum at Majdanek. Grudzińska used photos from the professor’s daughter private collection, materials from the archives of the Majdanek Museum, Museum of Medical University of Gdańsk, as well as the video footage of Romuald Sztaba talking about his memories.

Ewa Sztaba-Chmielarz, on the other hand, told the audience about his father by presenting his personal reflections on the reality surrounding him, which he included in four notebooks (1956-1982).

An extremely moving moment of the meeting was passing along as a gift the abovementioned notebooks and documents and other personal memorabilia that belonged to the professor by his daughter Ewa. Those materials include graduation certificates, doctor's diploma and the text of Medical Oath made by R. Sztaba in 1937. This document gains a different dimension when compared with the knowledge of how difficult it was for those working as doctors inside hospitals in concentration camps to save sick and exhausted prisoners.

An exceptional gift from Ewa is a wristwatch, which Romuald Sztaba got from his father on the occasion of obtaining a secondary school graduation certificate in 1930. As luck would have it, on the day of his arrest on January, 10, 1941, Mr Sztaba forgot to wear his watch leaving it at home. Thanks to that, the object survived the war. ‘The watch faithfully kept time to the last days of Romuald Sztaba's life‘ – wrote Ewa Sztaba-Chmielarz in a letter submitted to Wiesław Wysok, the Deputy Director of the State Museum at Majdanek.

The meeting was another one of the series ‘Majdanek in family memory.‘

The Archives of the State Museum at Majdanek encourage families of former Majdanek prisoners to donate memorabilia, documents and accounts of their relatives to the Museum. They will be maintained, secured and included in collections, representing an invaluable source of knowledge about the German occupation of the Lublin region.

In this way we pursue our mission of ‘nurturing memory and developing historical education about German occupation in the Lublin region during the Second World War, in particular by commemorating the victims, protecting exhibits and documenting the history of State Museum at Majdanek, and death camps in Bełżec and Sobibór.‘

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