Story of rescue

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The story of the Zabawski family

Filomena Zabawska and her son Marian received the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 1983. Mrs Zabawska was honoured posthumously, as she died in 1960. The title was bestowed on the basis of a testimony contained in one of the letters which the Zabawski family had preserved since wartime. At that time, they lived in the city of Sambor (today, part of Ukraine). There also, their fate crossed with that of the Jewish Krauss family. 

On 30th June 1941, the city was occupied by the Germans. In the spring of 1942, a ghetto was established in the Blich district, an area where, before the War, had been inhabited mainly by Jews. The Germans' first liquidation operation was carried out in August of that year, then again in September and two more in October. On 1st December, the ghetto was surrounded by barbed wire. Jews from Stary Sambor, Felsztyn and Turek were deported and moved into it. Around three thousand people now remained in the closed-off area. Further operations were regularly conducted from February. The biggest took place in June 1943, during which the Germans murdered around one hundred people. 

The writer of the letter preserved by the Zabawski family was Fajga Krauss. She wrote both documents, dated 24th May 1943, from inside the Sambor ghetto. She described to her sisters - the recipients Mania and Fruma - the cruel course of the previous dozen or so months. She said goodbye to them, sensing the inevitable. 

“Dear Mania”, she began in one of the letters [quoting the writer based on a translation of the English-language publication Last letters from the Shoah, ed. Zvi Bacharach, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem–New York 2004, p. 163 – ed.]. “I am trying to collect my thoughts in order to write a few words to you before we are separated. Maybe, by reading this, you will understand what it means to be in a fearful panic night and day. […] We tried to control those feelings and to have hope for a better future despite our loved ones having been taken away”. Fajga described how she had lost contact with her brothers, noting the circumstances of the ghetto's creation and the liquidation operations: 

[…] our life has become a mixture of hope, fear and suffering. On 22nd October 1942, the Jewish police carried out their third operation, during which our mother was taken away. Thank God, we managed to save her and, for a week, hide her at Mrs Zabawski's home I will never forget what this deed.

Mrs Zabawska was also mentioned as the person with whom Fajga will leave the letters and photographs: “We expect and can sense impending death. I have chosen several photographs and I am writing this farewell letter. Do not think that we are desolate. We must force ourselves to accept our fate. But I do not have the power to describe these moments when we have no control over our own lives. […] we are like a bird in a cage. If a miracle does not happen, then it is over. I will give this letter and the photographs to Mrs Zabawska and she will give them to you after the war”. 

Decades after these events, a former resident, Izrael Rosenblitt, visited Sambor. At that time, Marian Zabawski showed him Fajga Krauss's letters. Mr Rosenblitt sent copies of them to the Yad Vashem Institute. Fajga and her mother, Frida, did not survive the war.

Bibliography

  • Bacharach Zvi (red.), Last letters from the Shoah, Jerusalem–New York 2004