Today we mourn the loss of Hanna Pankowsky, a remarkable woman who gave us her testimony and was one of the subjects in a portrait series of Holocaust survivors painted by David Kassan.
Hanna Pankowsky, daughter of Sofia (Zofia) and Simon (Zellman) Davidson, was born on September 22, 1928, in Łódź, Poland. Hanna had an older brother, Kazik. Her father owned a prosperous textile wholesale business; her mother was an accomplished artist. Hanna was raised in an assimilated family that focused on secular Judaism. Following the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, anti-Jewish measures were imposed.
When the rumor started that the ghetto was being formed, Hanna’s mother made arrangements to obtain false papers to leave and flee to Soviet-occupied Bialystok, Poland. Hanna and her mother continued their journey until they arrived at their point of safety inside the Soviet Union. By then they had reunited with her father and brother. Hanna attended school in Orsza, a city in what is now Belarus.
As refugees, the family continued their journey east, escaping the front-line battles between the Germans and the Soviet armed forces. They made their way to Ioshkar-Ola, where they lived under harsh conditions. Her brother was drafted into a Polish unit of the Soviet armed forces. Hanna was later allowed to attend a metallurgic technical college in Moscow.
After the war, Hanna’s parents made their way to Proskurov – now Khmelnytskyi in Ukraine – before returning to Poland. Hanna returned to Łódź as well, where she was reunited with extended family members. She eventually obtained a visa to go to Mexico. She met and married her husband, Jaime Pankowsky, in Mexico City.
The couple moved to the United States in 1952 and settled in San Antonio, Texas.
Her testimony was conducted by USC Shoah Foundation Finci-Viterbi Executive Director Stephen Smith in Aspen, Colo. on April 2, 2017.