Ron Balamuth was the successor of the Balamuths, a Jewish family who used to rent out a flat in Wadowice to Karol Wojtyla’s, or Pope John Paul II’s, family. The townhouse in which the flat was located was bought in 1911 by Rozalia and Yechiel Balamuth. Yechiel and his son Chaim had opened at the flat the very first bicycle shop in town.

Nearly all members of the Balamuth family were subsequently murdered under Nazi occupation during WWII in a death camp in Belzec. There was just one survivor: Yechiel’s son, Chaim, who had managed to escape on a motorbike, reaching the Soviet border. After his arrival there, he was arrested and sent to a labour camp. Once the war finished, he fled to Israel where his son Ron was born.

On 16th June 1999, on one of his papal visits, John Paul II travelled to his hometown, Wadowice. While addressing the crowds in the old town, reminiscing about his time living there, he mentioned the Balamuth family and their town house at 7 Koscielna Street. A journalist from The New York Times then telephoned Ron Balamuth asking whether he was aware that televisions around the world were broadcasting John Paul II’s visit to Wadowice and him speaking about his childhood home. It was the first time Ron Balamuth learnt of the existence of the Wadowice townhouse. He immediately flew out to Poland to try to reclaim his family’s property. He informed the local authorities of his intention to get the property back, though he assured them he would not be attempting to change its use.

A few months later, a 1966 court judgment was discovered at the Regional Court in Wadowice confirming title over the townhouse to Chaim Balamuth and his sister Pepe. The property therefore proved to still be owned by the Balamuths. Ron Balamuth then simply applied for an update of the land and mortgage registers to reflect his title as the sole owner of the flat.

The moral of the story? Be inquisitive, be optimistic and be pro-active. Things will go the right way.

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