On Sunday 14th May 2017 at the Regent Street Cinema, Learning from the Righteous hosted a special screening of The Zookeeper’s Wife, a film based on events that happened during World War 2 at the Warsaw Zoo. As members of the underground resistance, directors Jan and Antonina Żabiński sheltered about 300 Jews in the abandoned animal cages of the zoo and in the basement of their villa home.
The screening was followed by a Q & A session with Holocaust survivor Moshe Tirosh, who was given shelter at the Zoo when he was a child. It was the first time Moshe had spoken in the United Kingdom about his experiences.
Moshe(circled), was born Mieczyslaw Kenigswein in Warsaw in 1937. The friendship between his family and the Żabińskis went back many years. The Kenigsweins were smuggled out of the ghetto and given shelter for three weeks at the Zoo. The children were in the basement of the villa while their parents were in the back of an empty aviary.
“I was a child of war and well-trained at keeping quiet for hours, but under Antonina’s protection, I told my mother, ‘I think we’ll be all right here’. She and Jan risked their lives to save Jews like me,” he said, “and I will always be grateful. I have a large family in Israel and when we gather together I always think of what the Żabińskis did”.
Moshe also spoke at events the charity held in conjunction with ORT UK and the Everyman Cinema.
HONOURING TADEUSZ STĘPNIEWSKI
Learning from the Righteous also honoured Dr Tadeusz Stępniewski, who was posthumously awarded the title, ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in early 2017. As a member of Żegota, the Council to Aid Jews, he provided medical care and refuge for many residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. He was a close colleague of Irena Sendler and contributed to the survival of many by performing a surgical procedure that hid the evidence of circumcision, enabling Jews to pass as non-Jews.
On 6th May Antony Lishak visited Hull to host a joint event, along with the local Mormon community and the Irena Sendler Saturday Polish School, entitled “We Are Our Brothers’ Keepers”, held at the Mormon Church. The event, which coincided with Polish National Heritage Day, was also attended by members of The Hull Reform Synagogue. It was a truly cross-cultural event that will be repeated and developed in the future.
On March 5th 2017 The Polish Embassy in London hosted a ceremony to mark the formal establishment of charitable status for Learning from the Righteous. The event marked the UK’s only official recognition of The European Day of the Righteous.
In front of Holocaust survivors, parents, and teachers, over 40 children aged 10-13 from London’s Jewish and Polish schools presented their responses to studying the acts of courage and selflessness carried out by the Righteous Among the Nations. Their work has also been published in a book, presented during the ceremony, and forms part of a unique exhibition that was also on display. The workshops that preceded the ceremony reached over 400 schoolchildren.
The event was attended by Sir Eric Pickles, United Kingdom Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, who together with the Polish Ambassador presented the children with books and certificates.
In February 2017, “Learning from the Righteous” secured a charitable status, which means it can now expand its work so that many more children can take part in its workshops in the future.
Arkady Rzegocki, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in London, said: What makes Antony Lishak’s project so unique is its underpinning human dimension. By telling the stories of both the rescuers and the rescued, he helps his students to better understand the reality of war and significance of true courage. The Righteous were both heroes and ordinary people. They did not seek recognition or personal gain, but acted because it was the right thing to do. I am very happy that the Polish Embassy in London can be a part of this exceptional educational project.
Sir Eric Pickles MP, United Kingdom Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, said: Poland suffered more than any other country in the Second World War, and the Polish government has made a tremendous effort throughout the years to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. Projects such as “Learning from the Righteous”, which both recognise the heroism of the people that saved lives and set these stories in the painful context of human brutality and indifference, can make a real mark on today’s world.
Antony Lishak, director of the “Learning from the Righteous” charity, said: Over the past 35 years I have been involved in countless projects, but none has meant more to me than “Learning from the Righteous”. Everyone is very rightly committed to the ideal of “never again”, yet often the subject of the Righteous lurks in the shadows. It is mine and the Embassy's hope that now we are established as a registered charity, that we can teach more children about this sensitive and hugely important field of education.