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Jola Dziubinska | all galleries >> POLAND - MY BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY >> WARSAW, POLAND >> ARCHITECTURE AND MONUMENTS > ZOO - The Zabinskis' Villa And Story
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18-APR-2009 Jola Dziubinska

ZOO - The Zabinskis' Villa And Story

Warsaw, Poland

Dr. Jan Zabinski was the director of the Warsaw Zoo before and during the WW II. Despite the enormous problems he faced as the director of a zoo during wartime, he was not blind to the suffering of the Jews. When the Warsaw ghetto was established Jan and his wife, Antonina, began helping their Jewish friends. As an employee of the Warsaw municipality he was allowed to enter the ghetto. Under the pretext of supervising the trees and small public garden within the ghetto area, he visited his Jewish acquaintances and helped them as best as he could. As the situation in the ghetto deteriorated, he offered them shelter.

In 2008 Diane Akerman wrote a book, "The Zookeeper's Wife":
"A true story in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes."

On October 17, 2008, Zabinski and his wife Antonina were among 70 Poles honored for their courage and heroism with one of the highest Polish medals - Polonia Restituta. Two of the Zabinski children - Ryszard and Teresa - accepted the posthumous award on behalf of their parents.

There is also a fim made upon this story:
Gary Lester’s latest Holocaust documentary, Safe Haven: The Warsaw Zoo, opened to a capacity crowd in Lake Mary, Florida on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

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BA Miller 06-Jan-2018 22:14
A beautifully told story that stayed on course throughout of the very brave Zablinski family from Warsaw. War is a terrible machine, causing such suffering to everything and everyone in it's path. Antonia and Jahn are true hero's in every sense of that word.
Rita 10-Sep-2012 20:22
What happened to Antonina? The book says very little about her after the return to Warsaw....
Kerry Tingley14-Dec-2011 00:31
Thanks for sharing this Jola. The book was wonderful. I could not put it down. It is nice to see the real home where all of this occurred.
Margaret 16-Sep-2011 18:32
The story of The Zookeepers Wife is one of true heroism. Their sacrifices for the lives of many Jewish people is a testimony to their love of humanity. Let us not forget this lesson.
Barbara Heide20-Apr-2009 19:50
beautiful story and wonderful shot! v
Maaike Huizer20-Apr-2009 18:32
A beautiful story. What would the world be without heroes like Jan!!
J. Scott Coile20-Apr-2009 13:03
What a story!
Cindi Smith19-Apr-2009 23:58
What an awesome story and they are now being rewarded in Heaven for helping the Jewish people. So many died and I still can't understand it and I pray it never happens again but we tend to keep doing the same bad things over and over. This particular moment in history, I hope never ever comes again! Love this image Jola! V
Inga Morozoff19-Apr-2009 19:27
Thanks for the story behind this photo. Incredible.
John 19-Apr-2009 19:18
Wonderful image! A very courageous story!
Mairéad19-Apr-2009 19:15
A wonderful story of compassion and bravery, Jola. The house's tranquil appearance belies its past.
Guest 19-Apr-2009 15:22
A stunning image and a great story.V
zyziza19-Apr-2009 15:06
Very moving story Jola!!!
Yvonne19-Apr-2009 10:42
So wonderful that they lived through all this and helped so many, and that they
were honoured & remembered. Beautiful grounds surrounding the house. Thank you
for the story, Jola!
charales19-Apr-2009 10:37
Great contrast and lovely place!
Máire Uí Mhaicín19-Apr-2009 09:34
A very heartwarming story to accompany this picture. It is good that these quiet heroes have been honoured so highly.
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