Vale Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki (1944–2021)

Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 31st January 2021
With great sadness, we received the news of the passing of Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki (1944–2021), daughter of Jan and Antonina Żabiński - Righteous Among the Nations (1965) who, during the Holocaust, hid Jews in the Warsaw Zoological Gardens. Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki always assisted us in documenting and disseminating the story of her parents - of their heroic activity during the German occupation, as well as their contribution towards the development of the Warsaw Zoo and teaching about the animals. She passed away on 30th January 2021 at the age of 76. In farewelling her, once again, we recall the story of the help provided to Jews in the Warsaw Zoo.

"It's difficult for me to talk about the help my parents gave to Jews during the Holocaust, because I can't remember it - I was born in the Warsaw Zoological Gardens in 1944. However, I well remember the discussions in our home, in later years, about it. After the War, many people, whom my parents had helped, visited us - they were friends, of course. They talked to my parents, saying, 'Do you remember what it was like?? Do you remember this .... or do you remember that?'. Sometimes, my mother also told me what had happened and how. I involuntarily soaked up the story", said Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki in an interview for the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews conducted in 2014.

Jan and Antonina Żabiński's Help for Jews in the Zoo

An asylum, a harbour, an ark - this is how those, who had survived German occupation with the help of Jan and Antoniny Żabiński, described the Warsaw Zoo. The Warsaw Zoological Gardens, at that time, had become a place where many Jews were hidden during the Holocaust. In the modernist villa located on the Zoo grounds, which Jan Żabiński called "The House Under the Wacky Star", refuge was given to, among others, writer Rachela Auerbach, sculptor Magdalena Gross and boxer Samuel Koenigswein and his family.

"We had to sit there quietly, not making any noise, because many people were roaming around - for example, the Germans, who were hunting the animals. Rysiek [Ryszard Żabiński, the very young son of Jan and Antonina - ed.] constantly ran, bringing us food. There are no words to describe this kindness and what Antonina did for me and my family", recalled Moshe Tirosh, son of Samuel Koenigswein.

In recognition of that help, on 7th September 1965, Jan and Antonina Żabiński were honoured by the Yad Vashem Instutute with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Farewelling Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki

It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzka (1944–2021), daughter of Jan and Antonina Żabińska. She was born on 28th June 1944, on the grounds of the Warsaw Zoological Gardens, where her father was the Director. She spent a significant part of her life in Denmark, but quite a few years ago, she returned to her native Warsaw.

She always helped the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in documenting and disseminating the story of her parents, their heroic activities during German occupation, as well as their contribution towards the development of the Warsaw Zoo and educating about the animals.

Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzka passed away on 30th January 2021 at the age of 76.


Read: The Story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński »


Listen: A Meeting with Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki »


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