Please read the post by Dr Karolina Panz about the history of the Beldegrün family. Poverty in the Podhale region, resulting from the lack of big industry, a harsh climate, and poor economic conditions, affected many inhabitants, making their lives difficult. Thanks to the history of the Beldegrün family and Henryk's testimony, we can gain an insight into the hard daily struggle of his mother Helena (Chaja) for the family's existence.
One of the greatest challenges in recreating the fate of Jews from small towns is to recover the stories of those who did not have their own house, shop or business, as poverty obliterates the archival traces of a person's existence. 127 Jews from Nowy Targ (about 5 per cent of the Jewish community) lived in extreme poverty in 1934. This number increased significantly as a result of the flood that hit Nowy Targ in July that year. Helena (Chaja) and Adolf Beldegrün were among the poor to have been affected by the flood. They had four children. One of the daughters had died shortly after her birth, another one, Esterka, passed away at the age of four, and only Henryk and Ela remained alive. Adolf had lost his job in a timber yard at the very beginning of the economic crisis, and the shipping company he had founded collapsed. He broke down mentally and later fell ill with tuberculosis. Helena maintained the house by sewing trousers that were sold at the fair in Nowy Targ. The flood found them in a rented apartment, which was unusable for a year after the water level had fallen. Adolf's health deteriorated rapidly that summer, and he died in September 1934. This is how Henryk Beldegrün remembered his mother's everyday life: “We returned home from the funeral, to our sad life. Mother switched to a different way of earning a living, as she was unable to support our family by sewing. She would knock on the doors of wealthier families, collecting orders for the purchase of poultry and dairy products. Regardless of the weather, she had to drive an open cart to the fair in Czarny Dunajec every Monday, the fair in Jabłonka every Wednesday, and the fair in Nowy Targ every Thursday, where she did the shopping. On Mondays, she would leave for Czarny Dunajec around 5.30 am, so she had to get up at 4.30 am, and she would return home around 5-6 p.m. She would leave for Jabłonka around 3.30 am, so she had to get up around 2.30 am, and she would return home around 7-8 pm, and sometimes, especially in winter, when the conditions were difficult, she would be back much later. Of course, she had to carry the bundles and the poultry and dairy baskets herself. All this weighed about 60 kg. After arriving back home, all the poultry had to be taken to the butcher's, and then it had to be plucked, which sometimes lasted until midnight, and on Wednesdays even all night long. The Thursday purchase had to be processed on the third night, and so it went on like this for weeks, months and years on end. In practice, it all had to be sold away by Friday lunch, because no one would have bought it later, as they would not have had the time to prepare it for Shabbat. And only in the evening would my mother prepare something for Saturday on the fly and clean the apartment at the same time. On Saturdays, she would make up for lost sleep a little and bounce back. And on Sundays, she would pluck goose feathers."
Helena (Chai) Beldegrün's “List of the confirmations received for the registered industries, handicraft cards and licences”, stated that she was self-employed in buying dairy products and selling vegetables, and that her workplace was the markets and fairs of the Nowy Targ district. Dozens of Nowy Targ Jews earned their living in a similar way.
No photograph of Helena has survived. She was most probably murdered in Bełżec at the age of 41 with her 18-year-old daughter Ela. This is evidenced by a small pencil mark by their surname, which made it easier to count the number of train cars necessary for transport to the extermination camp.