Jack Cohen

Jack Cohen – A child in a time of evil

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Jack Cohen – A child in a time of evil

A Polish Catholic child named Jerzy Mikuczyn, aged 3 , living on a farm near Slonim in eastern Poland, was very disturbed in 1944 near the end of WWII, when a man suddenly turned up and claimed that he was the boy’s father.  His mother of course refused to let the man take him.  But, the man went to the Communist authorities and told them his story, that he was in fact the uncle of the boy, whose true Jewish parents Jakub, his brother, and Helen Glikson, had died fighting in the forests with the partisans against the Nazis.  Documents proved that in fact the child had been taken into the Catholic Orphanage in Slonim where he had been looked after by two nuns, Sisters Martha Wolowska and Ewa Nojszewska, and had been converted to Christianity by the Jesuit priest Father Adam Sztark.  The priest had then arranged for him to be adopted by the Mikuczyns.

Under the circumstances the Russian judge decided to give Josef Glikson custody of the child.  Mrs. Mikuczyn, the boy’s  adopted mother then testified that had she known that she was raising a child for the Jews, she wouldn’t have taken him in.  The boy, now called Jurek Glikson reluctantly went with the man, who he believed was his real father, and they traveled east by train via Moscow to Tashkent, where he met his third mother, Cypora.  The Gliksons adopted Jurek and returned to Warsaw as soon as the Soviet authorities allowed Polish nationals to repatriate.  But, finding that most of their relatives had perished in the war, they became DPs and moved on to Stockholm, Paris and finally in 1948 to New York.

Although at first speaking no English, Jurek learned the language very quickly.  He also began to learn what being a Jew meant, having already experienced anti-Semitism in Poland. He also took classes in Yiddish and Jewish history, literature and culture and returned to his roots.  At 18 during his US citizenship proceedings, having been formally renamed as Jerry David Glickson, he finally learned the true story of his origins. Eventually he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and Columbia University.  He became Professor at several US Universities and was a former scientific colleague of mine.  Now married for the second time, he has 5 children and 3 grandchildren, all of them Jewish.

In 2005, Jerry returned to Slonim for a visit, which proved to be very enlightening.  He learned about the Orphanage where he had been looked after by the two nuns and the priest.  From a monument commemorating the Jewish Community, he learned that 35,000 Jews had been murdered in Slonim and that the priest and two nuns had been executed by the Nazis for helping Jews and had been buried in a mass grave with 21,000 Jews outside of Slonim.  He found this mass grave on a hill in a remote suburb called Petrolowicze.  This hill is in fact a man-made hill resulting from the burial of 21,00 Jews, plus several hundred Poles.  On top are four memorials, one to the Jews, one to the Poles killed by the Nazis, a cross commemorating the two nuns and the priest and a monument commemorating the Russian soldiers who fell fighting to liberate the town on July 4, 1944. The two nuns have been beatified by Pope John Paul II, and the priest has been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

Now that he knows the almost complete story of his origins, Jerry is writing a memoire of his life.  I thank him for letting me see it in its current form and allowing me to write this summary.  He is one of a few child survivors out of three million Polish Jews who perished in Poland during the Holocaust at the hands of the Germans and their collaborators.

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