Andrew Stefanski sits on the couch in his living room in Westchester, Los Angeles, on July 17, 2021. Above him hang two paintings of Warsaw, a younger photograph of himself, and photos of his daughters: Dorothy (bottom left) and Susan (top left). 

'I am Surviving'

Andrew Stefanski woke up in a hospital bed, disoriented and heavily medicated. Memories from the Holocaust flashed through his mind. He tried to escape, but the hospital staff confined him to his bed, placing mittens on his hands and a guard at the door. “I don’t know if I will get out of here alive,” he said to his eldest daughter, Susan, over the phone. 

Andrew, who is 96, is one of the last Polish Holocaust survivors in Los Angeles. Most survivors are in their 80s and 90s, and their numbers have dwindled in recent years as age has taken its toll. When all the survivors are gone, no living reminders, no witnesses will remain to the worst human beings can do to one another.

Until recently, Andrew’s family didn’t know about most of his experiences during the war. A box, inscribed, “Prisoner of War Food Package,” his daughter Susan Stefanski discovered in his closet in September 2021. It contained photos that were unexplored by their family for over 75 years.

Read more about the Stefanski’s story online. Written and photographed for the Los Angeles Times.

Andrew holds up his hand to the sky on October 5, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA. After Andrew was captured by the Nazis in 1944, he was left with a group of Russian soldiers on a freezing cold train for a few days. 26 of the soldiers froze to death, and Andrew's hands were so frostbitten that they became swollen and purple. To this day, "they still are not normal," he said.

Andrew (left) and Susan (right) reads Andrew a list of the doctor’s suggestions for staying healthy after his hospital visit on August 22, 2021. Andrew was released from the hospital earlier that day after being treated for an infection. 

Andrew's box, inscribed, “American Red Cross Prisoner of War Food Package,” sits on the couch in his living room. Andrew has kept it for over 75 years. Before September, the box remained unexplored by his daughters.

Susan poses for a portrait in her Westchester home on Oct. 9, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA.

Susan and Andrew walk together in their neighborhood in Westchester, Los Angeles, on July 17, 2021. Andrew enjoys walking for exercise. Before the pandemic, Susan said, he also enjoyed swimming a lot.

Andrew lays down at a doctor’s appointment at UCLA in Santa Monica on September 14, 2021. “I am not well,” he said. At one summer doctor’s appointment he remarked, “I feel like I am half-living.” 

Susan Stefanski talks on the phone in her front yard on September 25, 2021.

 A vase of roses sits on Andrew's dresser in his bedroom on September 11, 2021. After a recent hospital visit, Andrew’s friend sent him flowers, wishing him a speedy recovery. 

Andrew eats lunch in his bed at home on September 11, 2021, shortly after his hospital visit.

Susan's cat Simba peers through the pet flap at the Stefanski house in Westchester on August 28, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA. 

Andrew (right) and his caretaker (left) sit at the dining room table in Andrew’s home on September 24, 2021.

Afternoon light in Andrew and Susan's backyard.

Andrew (right) and his grandson Justin Keeling (left) pose for a portrait on October 5, 2021.

A painting that hangs on Andrew and Susan's living room wall.

Archival photos and documents from Andrew Stefanski scanned in Los Angeles in October 2021. Top left: a portrait of Andrew Stefanski taken 1946 Italy. Top right: a postcard sent to Andrew from Poland. Bottom left: an envelope addressed to Andrew after the war. Bottom right: A portrait of Andrew and a friend taken after the war. Andrew does not remember the woman pictured.

Dorothy Stefanski visits her dad as he's resting.

Andrew sits in his backyard on September 21, 2021.

Susan and Andrew pose for a portrait in Westchester.

Andrew eats lunch in his Westchester home on Tuesday, September 24, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA. 

Andrew sits in a chair in his living room on September 17, 2021. He wears his veteran jacket. On his right arm is an armband of the Polish flag, and on the left side of his jacket are medals from the war, although at this late date he cannot recall their significance. 

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