Friday, June 22, 2018

At 13, she survived the Holocaust with the help of a Polish family. Decades later, an unlikely reunion

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Three quarters of a century ago in Poland, Nazi soldiers forcibly separated a Jewish woman from her husband. She and her children, two young sons and a daughter, were forced toward a train station, bound for certain death at Sobibor extermination camp.

For the time and place, the mother was unusually educated and politically aware. She knew what was happening. She held back a bit, took her 13-year-old daughter’s belongings, tossed them into a ditch, then looked her square in the face.

“I don’t believe the whole world’s gone mad. There’s got to be someone who will help you,” she said. “If you survive, I will, through you.”

Then she pushed her daughter off the road and told her to run.

For Janina Zak-Krasucki, 62, a supervisor of special education for the New Jersey Department of Education, the Jewish girl her Polish Catholic grandparents saved from the Holocaust always existed on the edges of her memory.

It was a story that was retold in the summers when Zak-Krasucki would spend holidays at their house outside Lublin, eastern Poland’s largest city. Sometimes she would see mysterious packages of Western clothes postmarked from America, as if in thanks for some long ago kindness.

“I grew up on these stories,” she said in an interview.  (more...)


Lublin is the place of my father's childhood. He and his family fled to Canada a decade before the war. It is the ancestral place I most identify with. A tragic place.

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