Forgotten heroine recognised as Righteous Among Nations

A Polish woman who saved the lives of two young Jewish women during the Holocaust after they had survived three rounds of extermination by German and Ukrainian killing squads in the Włodzimierz Wołyński ghetto has been recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Janina Zawadzka offered life-saving shelter to Mania Tisch and her cousin Popa in a stable on her property after the two women had escaped the final round-up and murder of Jews in the town which is now called Volodymyr Volynski in western Ukraine.

The recognition was confirmed at the end of last year by Yad Vashem after the efforts of Adena Astrowsky, the granddaughter of Mania Tisch (later Mania Lichtenstein).

In a letter dated 30 November 2020, Yad Vashem said: “We are pleased to announce that the Commission for Designation of the Righteous has decided to award the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” to Janina Zawadzka, for help rendered to Jewish persons during the period of the Holocaust at the risk of her life.”

Astrowsky, who lives in Arizona, recently published a book about her grandmother’s experiences, Living among the Dead: My Grandmother’s Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength.

She told TFN: “At a time when most people lacked a moral compass, a few people, like Janina Zawadzka, exhibited extraordinary bravery at the risk of their own lives. Those like Janina were the Righteous Among the Nations.”

She added: “My grandmother said that she was an absolutely lovely woman with a heart of gold. She said that she really had a lot of pity for the Jews and would cry over what was being done to them.”

Mania stayed in contact with Janina after the war by exchanging letters, but eventually the contact broke off. Neither Mania nor her granddaughter know what happened to Janina in the years after the war. Mania Lichtenstein died in 2017 in the United States.

Janina will now join over 6,600 other Poles who have received the recognition. This is over a quarter of the total number of awards, and more than in any other country.

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