Rula Lenska breaks down in tears as she recalls memory of great aunt How I remember her

DNA Journey: Rula Lenska cries over picture of her great aunt

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Dame Maureen Lipman and Countess Rula Lenska joined ITV’s heartwarming show DNA Journey on Tuesday evening as they looked back at their past for more information about their family history. As the pair travelled to Warsaw, Poland, Rula was intrigued to find out how far back her aristocracy went and was surprised to find out that her great aunt helped an orphanage escape the Warsaw ghetto in 1940.

Maureen and Rula met their historian and genealogist guide who began to explain to Rula the history of her family during the time of the Warsaw ghettos.

The density of the population was extreme as the residents were trapped in 1.3 square miles and had three families crammed into one room at a time.

More than 400,000 Jews, nearly a third of the city’s population, were forced to live in the conditions, enclosed by a 10-metre wall and barbed wire.

Anyone who tried to escape was shot on sight, and a quarter of the civilians died of starvation and disease.

One of Rula’s ancestors had a link to the Warsaw ghetto, her great aunt Maria Hutten-Czapska, and was a member of an underground movement helping to rescue Jewish orphans imprisoned inside.

The guide explained to Rula: “I have something for you, maybe you can recognise her?”

She then turned her iPad around and presented Rula with a picture of her aunt.

“She was a nurse, she worked in ambulance trains, and she was 18 in that photo, so shortly before the outbreak of the great war,” the guide explained.

“You know what is fascinating with her story, she comes from a polish-catholic home, the history of the Warsaw ghetto is a part of Maria’s story.”

The group moved into what is the last of the remains of the Warsaw ghetto and were overcome with emotion thinking about the horrors people went through.

Her guide then showed Rula an image of her aunt, to which she gasped in shock and emotionally exclaimed: “Oh my gosh! Oh, that is how I remember her exactly.

“Exactly how I remember her, god I can see my father in her! Such a gentle, beautiful face! So tell me, how was she involved?”

The guide explained: “Your aunt Maria, she was a member of the underground organisation, and it was the only organisational help for the Jews.

“We are not sure of the full story as we only have fragments of her involvement, but for sure, she sneaked into the Warsaw ghetto in order to meet with the director of the Jewish orphanage.

“Together, they smuggled children outside of the ghetto, and it was a huge task and challenge, and her life was endangered because any kind of help was punished by death.”

Thinking back to her aunt and the sacrifices she made, Rula said: “I am really, really proud of her, and I am very glad that she helped them.”

Maureen interjected: “I mean, we haven’t been friends for all that length of time, we just had a click.

“And this explains this really weird friendship we have,” she teased.

“What a day to do this on, on Rosh Hashanah, what a privilege and how sad I am that I wasn’t old enough to appreciate who you were and what you had done,” Rula emotionally exclaimed as she kissed the photo.

The pair continued their DNA journey, with both finding out astonishing things about their background and the unlikely links between their families.

DNA Journey continues Tuesday, April 19, from 9pm on ITV.

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