Zbigniew Zakrzewski and Uranyi Palne Irma may not have realized it at the time, but their names would be recognized around the world. On March 3, years after their deaths, both were honored for their courageous efforts during the Holocaust.
Zakrzewski and Irma were the recipients of the Right Among Nations, presented by the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem National Chair Fran Sonshine and Israel’s Consul General in Toronto Amir R. Gissin. Their relatives accepted the awards on their behalf.
Right Among Nations is a prestigious award given by the Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Remembrance and Education Centre in Jerusalem, on behalf of the State of Israel. Recipients are honored with a medal and their names are commemorated on the Yad Vashem garden. Yad Vashem is visited annually by over one million people. In the past, the honor has been given to 22,500 gentiles from 44 countries who have risked their lives to rescue one or more Jews.
Sonshine said, “This event illustrates that truly selfless acts must not go unnoticed.” Zakrzewski and Irma’s stories were no exceptions.
In the end of 1942, Zakrzewski let a nine-year-old girl named Brunia Rubinovitch-Glass into his home. Rubinovitch-Glass escaped from the Warsow ghetto and didn’t have a place to stay. Zakrzewski opened his house to Rubinovitch-Glass, arranged her Aryan papers and treated her like his own daughter. In 1947 Zakrewski was arrested and sentenced to death after resisting the Communist takeover in Poland. Since the end of the War, Rubinovitch-Glass has moved to Tel Aviv, Israel.
On the other hand, Irma also saved a child from captivity. Jakov Fliegman was a 13-year-old who fled the orphanage in fear of being captured by the Nazis. As he roamed the streets, he started hiding in the basement of the building supervised by Irma. Since then, Irma agreed to hide Fliegman.
“We are so very proud to have the opportunity to honor these true heroes,” said Sonshine in a press release. “The Righteous Among the Nations represent sparks of light within the darkness. We can only hope that these lessons of bravery will carry forth to future generations so that they too will understand the profound meaning of selflessly embracing all that is good and right.”
Marek Zakrzewski received the award on March 3 on behalf of his father, while Fliegman flew from Petah Tikvah, Israel to meet Irma’s family, which included granddaughter Gabriella Starker-Saxe who accepted the honor in Irma’s place.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life