Helena Lewicka (Władysław Szpilman's Shelter)
”It was to be my last hideout before the Warsaw Uprising and complete destruction of the city that followed,” wrote Władysław Szpilman in his memoir. The apartment belonged to Helena Lewicka, a friend of his colleagues from the Polish Radio with which the composer had cooperated before the war. “She had never met me before; having met me now, and upon hearing of my experiences so far, she immediately agreed to take me in.”
“A large room on the fourth floor had a separate entrance from the staircase. It had access to gas and electricity, but no running water. One had to use the tap in the corridor, next to the communal toilet.” The adjacent buildings were occupied by the Germans – they housed German military institutions. “This time, I resided at the very centre of one of the most German of Warsaw districts, in the lion’s den itself.”
Szpilman remained in hiding there in the period between 21 August 1943 until 12 August 1944 when, during the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans shelled the building from a tank and set it on fire. Being trapped by the flames, Szpilman tried to commit suicide. He survived, and the fire stopped one floor below his flat. On 30 August, the composer moved into a ruined apartment on the third floor where – thanks to a bathtub full of water and sea biscuits in the pantry – he survived until mid-November 1944.