The 2017 Righteous: Natalia Gorbaniewska, Jan Jelinek and Roberto Kozak

Redakcja, 6th March 2017
During a gala held at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews on 6th March, the European Day of the Righteous, the Garden of the Righteous in Warsaw Committee announced the names of those honoured as the “2017 Righteous”. They are Russian poet and dissident Natalia Gorbaniewska, Czech pastor Jan Jelinek and Argentinian diplomat Roberto Kozak. Trees will be planted and memorial plaques will be unveiled in their honour, in spring, in Warsaw's Garden of the Righteous.

On 6th March 2017, the following individuals were honoured as the 2017 Righteous”:

  • Natalia Gorbaniewska (1936–2013) – Russian poet. dissident and one of five participants in a Moscow demonstration against aggression in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Repressed by the Soviet state, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital. In 1975, she was forced to emigrate and left for France. Chairman of the Warsaw Garden of the RIghteous Committee Zbigniew Gluza said: Throughout her life, she showed how and why a government and the silence of a crowd must be opposed - and the price one pays for that”.
  • Jan Jelinek (1912–2009) – Czech pastor from the village of Kupiczów na Wołyniu. During the War, he helped Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Germans and Russians. His laudation states that As a pastor, he helped people in need without asking their nationality”. He took a Jewish family under his roof. He helped people in the ghetto and, during the genicide in Wołyn, he also saved Poles, Ukrainians and Germans.
  • Roberto Kozak (1942–2015) – an Argentinian diplomat who, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 1970's, aided persecuted Chilean citizens. It is estimated that there are thousands who owe their lives to this man or who benefited from his assistance - among them being the current President of Chile Michelle Bachelet. Roberto Kozak has been called the Latin American Schindler”.

The European Day of the RIghteous was established by the European Parliament in May 2012, on the initiative of the Italian Garden of the Righteous Committee (GARIWO). The date, 6th March, is not coincidental. This date marks the death of Mosze Bejski, the Polish-born initiator of the Garden of the Righteous in Jerusalem. He also co-authored the title of “Righteous Among the Nations of the World”.  The concept of “Righteous”, which was first used by the Yad Vashem Memorial , today has a universal character. The title serves to honour, not only those recognised by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations”, but also all those who, against totalitarianism and genocide, had the courage to defend human dignity, aid the victims or stand up in defence of the truth.

In 2014, at the initiative of the Italian GARIWO Foundation and the Meeting WIth History House, and with the support of the Mayor of the Wola District. The first Polish Garden of the Righteous was opened which, thus far, has honoured  Władysław Bartoszewski, Marek Edelman, Magdalena Grodzka-Gużkowska, Petro Hryhorenko, Jan Karski, Antonia Locetelli, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Nelson Mandela, Hasan Mazhar, Witold Pilecki, Anna Politkowska and Father Jan Zieja. Each year, the title of Righteous” is bestowed posthumously on three individuals (selected from a list of nominees announced annually). The decision is,made by the Garden of the Righteous Committee which is comprised of eminent individuals from the fields of education and culture.

Guests at the gala included Ruth Cohen-Dar, Deupty Ambassador and Political Attache at the Israeli Embassy in Poland, Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, Roberto Cincotta, Director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Warsaw, Prof. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, Father Wacław Oszajca, Dr Mateusz Szpytma, Deputy Chairman of the Institute of National Remembrance, Zbigniew Gluza, Chairman of the Warsaw Garden of the Righteous, Piotr Jakubowski, Director of the Meeting With History House, Marian Turski, Chairman of the POLIN Museum Council, Piotr Wiślicki, Chairman of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland Association, Prof. Dariusz Stola, Director of POLIN Museum and the Righteous Anna Stupnicka-Bando, Chairperson of the Polish Association of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Gala Organisers: Meeting With History House, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Italian Institute of Culture; Partners: Służba Rzeczpospolitej Foundation, Warszawskie Centrum Innowacji Edukacyjno-Społecznych i Szkoleń, the Jan Karski Education Foundation, GARIWO and the Diuna Tranlation Bureau.

More information about those honoured as the “2017 Righteous” can be found in this brochure.