Madame Lilenstein Chajna
Madame Lilenstein is born in 1910 in Ryki (Poland), her father a craft worker handcrafts hat boxes, her mother selling these on open markets. She is the elder of four daughters, her parents and sisters will not come back from Auschwitz. She attends the Polish primary and high schools in Warsaw, she learns Yiddish at home. At seventeen she works as a sales person in a cooperative store from the Bund in Warsaw. She meets her future husband eighteen years old, Lejzor (Léon) Sandlarz, tailor trainee then professional. In order to avoid the conscription he leaves Poland in 1930. At the occasion of the Paris Exhibition in 1930, Hélène rejoins her future husband. In 1931 they get married in France, they will have two children. In 1931 Léon volunteers in the French army. He has chosen France and freedom. He is incorporated in the 21st IRFV. On May 30th 1940, the day of the 6th birthday of his son Jacques is the day of Léon’s death, volunteer for a scouting mission, he never came back. Hélène remains in Paris alone, she will learn her husband’s death only several weeks later. InParis start the roundups and the deportation of Jews, Hélène “protected” by her status of war widow is not seriously harassed till that morning “visit” on July 16th 1942, when despite her poor French speaking, she defends herself with success and isn’t arrested. After that date, even if Hélène and her children were spared, it becomes dangerous to stay in Paris. The kids sheltered, Hélène gets forged documents which changes her to an Alsatian women, and she leaves to Montauban in the “free zone” early 1943. Hélène works there in fruits and vegetables production cooperative. After the Liberation she returns to Paris, the apartment had been confiscated, her income is limited to her war widow pension. She registers at the trade office and start selling cloths on the markets. She meets Israël Lilenstein (known as Jacques), widow himself since his wife did not return from deportation. He is the father of two children. Hélène also becomes tutor of her orphan nephew Jacky. Hélène and Jacques will become activists in the social area, Hélène will be one of the first to join the UEVACJ. Very fast will she become member of the Social Commission in the Union and her contribution will be particularly important after the war; Those who came back, veterans, POWs, deported, partisans, all need help to put together their case in order to claim for their rights. In January 1961 is laid the first stone of the Levins convalescence home, “les Lauriers Roses”. When the Union erects the Volunteer Veterans Memorial in the Bagneux cemetery, the remains of Léon are transferred there from a military cemetery; his name figures among those of 68 volunteer veterans “Fallen for France”. It’s in the Social Commission that her action will be most remarkable; after the cases will be the visit to the ill persons, at home or at hospital. The Union’s members knew how to appreciate her valiance and faithfulness, and the successive leaders knew that they could rely on her.
This speech was read during a ceremony granted to Hélène Lilenstein, by Henri Bulawko and published in “Notre Volonté” N°4 (19) June-July-August 1991