The world lost a hero when Anna Kozminksa, the oldest “Righteous Among the Nations” who saved Jews during the Holocaust, died on March 24, 2021 at age 101.
During Anna’s youth she had lost her mother, father, grandmother and brother to illness. By 1939, when the Germans occupied Poland, only Anna and her stepmother Maria were left of the family and they lived together in Krakow. At this time, persecution against Polish Jews became increasingly intense and the Jews of Krakow were forced into the squalid Czestochowa ghetto. In 1942, the Germans began liquidating the ghetto and deporting Jews to Treblinka, a death camp. Miraculously, an 8-year-old Jewish boy, Abraham Jablonski, was able to escape during the chaos of the deportations. Abraham, whose eyesight was very poor and getting worse (he had no glasses) roamed the Polish countryside at night, hiding in barns and surviving on animal feed. He was able to connect with some relatives who were in hiding in Krakow, and Abraham’s uncle found a safe shelter for him with the Kozminska women in their small apartment.
Anna and Maria welcomed the traumatized little boy into their home with loving arms. They fussed over him and cared for him as if he were their own. Documents at Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem testify that “Maria and Anna looked after Abraham devotedly, saw to all his needs, made him feel safe, and raised his spirits when he was feeling low.” They educated him, “taught him to read and write, and at great personal risk, took him occasionally for walks outside.”
The two Polish woman also sheltered several other Jewish refugees. All we know about them is that one bore the last name Rubinsztain, and there were two woman named Stefa and Rita.
Young Abraham stayed with the Kozminksas until January 1945, when the area was liberated by the Russians. When his relatives came to retrieve him, they tried to repay Anna and Maria for all the money they’d spent caring for Abraham for three years, but the women refused to receive any payment. They said a tearful goodbye to the boy, knowing it was best for him to be with his own family, but feeling the loss intensely. Abraham moved to Israel with his uncle and never forgot the Polish women who had so lovingly cared for him. Anna and Maria Kozminksa were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem in 1991. After forty-seven years, Abraham Jablonski finally located Anna Kozminska living in Warsaw (Maria had died in 1963) and urged her to write her memoirs, which she did.
Anna was honored with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the President of Poland Andrzej Duda. In May 2020, when she turned 101, she received birthday cards from President Duda and President Reuven Rivlin of Israel. Rivlin thanked Anna “for your courageous acts of humanity and bravery during the dark days of the Second World War in Poland.” The cards were hand-delivered to Anna by Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, and Abraham Jablonski’s niece, Grazyna Pawlak, who also gave Anna an album with photos of the family. Together the three sat on Anna’s porch, wearing masks and chatting.
Anna passed away on March 24, 2021, which coincidentally (or not) is the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Rescuing Jews under German Occupation. She is buried in the family plot at Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw.
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