Meet Teresa Zawadzka, Daughter of Jan and Antonina Żabiński

Mateusz Szczepaniak, Klara Jackl, 24th March 2017
"An asylum", "a haven", "an ark" – these are words used to describe the Warsaw ZOO by those who, thanks to the Żabiński couple, survived World War II there. We invite you to a hear their daughter, Teresa Zawadzki, who, at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, will tell the wartime story of her parents.

Discussion about "The Zookeeper’s Wife" with Żabińskis' daughter

During the years of German occupation in Poland, the Warsaw Zoological Garden, run by Director Jan Żabiński, became a place of hiding for many Jews. The Żabińskis’ modernist villa, located on the ZOO grounds and known as “The House Under the Wacky Star”, provided refuge for, among others, writer Rachela Auerbach, sculptress Magdalena Gross, as well as for Samuel Kenigswein and his family. For extending this help, in 1965, Jan Żabiński and his wife Antonina were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, together with the Świat Książki publishing house, organised an event featuring Jan and Antonina Żabiński's daughter, Teresa Zawadzki, which was held at 6:00pm on 5th April 2017 at POLIN Museum. The meeting was inspired by the Polish edition of Diane Ackerman's book "The Zookeeper’s Wife", bestseller in 2008. 

The event at POLIN Museum

The discussion with Teresa Zawadzki, daughter of Jan and Antonina Żabiński, at POLIN Museum was moderated by Jerzy S. Majewski. Krystyna Czubówna read some parts of the book. 

Listen to the podcast (Polish only) »

"The Zookeeper’s Wife" Hollywood movie

The premiere of the Polish edition of the book is related to the new Hollywood production and its premiere in Poland. "The Zookeeper’s Wife" film, directed by Niki Caro, is based on the Diane Ackerman's book. She, in turn, based her book on the recollections of Antonina Żabińska who is the film's heroine. In the film, her role is played by Hollywood star, Jessica Chastain, a winner of the Gold Globe Award and twice niminated for an Oscar for her roles in "The Help" and "Zero Dark Thirty". The role of Jan Żabiński is played by Johan Heldenbergh, known mainly for his role in "The Broken Circle Breakdown". The role of the dubious Nazis played by Daniel Brühl.

In 2019 a Polish documentary telling the story of the Warsaw ZOO was released. "Of Animals and Men” by Łukasz Czajka shows archival material, dramatised scenes and statements from the last living witnesses to history and the descendants of these heroes.


Read More



See Also


An interiew with Zoo Holocaust Survivor Stefania Koenigswein and the Żabiński couple's daughter, Teresa Zawadzka, from the Oral History Collection of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews: