This is not your typical childhood romance. Ola and Pawel, both 33, met when they were 12 years old and were deeply entrenched in Poland’s neo-Nazi scene when they married six years later. Then Ola made a shocking discovery: She and Pawel had Jewish roots.
“I didn’t expect to find out that I had a Jewish husband,” she said in a documentary on CNN International’s World’s Untold Stories. “I didn’t know how to tell him. I loved him even if he was a punk or skinhead, if he beat people up or not. It was a time in Poland when this movement was very intense.”
Anti-semitism flourished in Poland in the 1980s, when Pawel and Ola came of age. But after Ola dug through documents at the Jewish Historical Institute, she uncovered the news that forever altered their white supremacist mentality.
“It is difficult to describe how I felt when I found out I was Jewish,” Pawel told CNN. “My first thought was, ‘What am I going to tell people? What am I going to tell the boys? Should I admit it or not?’”
Ultimately he did admit it, with the help of Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich. These days, Pawel and Ola are practicing Orthodox Jews and active members of Warsaw’s Jewish community. Pawel is studying to work in a kosher slaughterhouse and Ola works in the synagogue’s kitchen as a kosher supervisor.
“I feel sorry for those that I beat up,” Pawl told CNN, “but I don’t hold a grudge against myself. The people who I hurt can hold a grudge against me.”