Supporting the Righteous
As a teenager in Warsaw during the Holocaust, Krystyna Kowalska helped save a Jewish family of four who hid at her family’s bakery.
She does not remember being afraid, even though if they had been discovered her whole family would have almost certainly been shot dead on the spot along with the Jews they hid.
But now, at the age of 88, Kowalska is fearing for her life because of the coronavirus, the fatality rate of which is especially high in individuals older than 70.
“It’s a scary time for me to be outside as I see the impact of this virus on my age group,” said Kowalska, a widow whose son has died and who lives alone in a third-story apartment without an elevator.
Across the world, people from her generation have minimized their interaction with the outside world to avoid contracting COVID-19.
For rescuers of Jews in Warsaw, that task became considerably easier this week.
The From the Depths commemoration group, which last year began offering free taxi rides to these rescuers, converted its small fleet of four cars into a delivery service that is designed to fulfill the recipients’ basic needs at their homes while taking care to expose them to as little risk as possible.
Since the start of the pandemic the foundation has delivered groceries to over 65 people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide, around a quarter of the World's living Righteous.
The cabs are disinfected after each delivery and the group’s founder, Jonny Daniels, said he delivers the groceries personally to the recipients wearing a mask and gloves.
“After the pandemic broke out, we started seeing more demand, not less, for the taxi,” he said.
The Righteous became more reliant on the taxis to get around because it was less risky than public transportation, Daniels said.
“But they still need to buy food, often at several supermarkets because of hoarding,” which has created shortages in basic products, he added.
So From the Depths made a list of 40 addresses and plans to make home deliveries to all of them by Saturday.
To keep the cabs virus free, From the Depths paid for overpriced disinfectants, which its staffers — the association has several drivers, an administrator and dozens of volunteers — apply between rides.
“We consulted medical staff and the technique we use is basically the same as what they do in ambulances,” Daniels said.
Daniels said some recipients of his deliveries have become his friends over the years, inviting him in for tea. Some are lonely.
“I politely refuse the invitations,” he said. “These are people I usually hug and kiss on the cheek at events, but these days I just carry the bags into their apartments and I’m out of there.”
Kowalska, who is one of just a few dozen living rescuers in Poland, said she understands the situation.
“It’s a kind service. It means that I don’t have to go outside and risk my health. The fact that I can trust them means the world to me,” she said.
From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation, said Oliver Wangart, the chief driver and head of logistics for a service the association calls Silent Hero.
The delivery and taxi service has travelled over 4000km delivering packages to the Righteous wherever they are, which is already straining the From the Depths budget, Daniels said.
“But these are people who stood up for the Jews in our people’s hour of need,” he said. “Well, now this is their hour of need and we need to stand up for them.”
A Few of the Righteous we have visited...
Tadeusz Stankiewicz, 90 years old is a Righteous Among The Nations, he was 9 years old when the war broken out. He along with his family saved 9 Jews during the War, we went to him a few weeks ago with a food package and today we came back after 2 months in isolation to show him some love!
Righteous Maria Rudzka, 91, Dobrczyce
Righteous, Maria Augustyn, 88, Gorlice
Righteous Jozef Walaszczyk, 100, Warsaw, with Deputy Ambassador of Israel, to Poland, Tal Ben-Ari
Righteous, Jozef Jarosz, 89, Mecina
Righteous Jarosz Maksymilian, 95, Piaska
Righteous, Dr Anna Bando, 91, Warsaw, with Deputy Ambassador for Israel Tel Ben-Ari
Righteous Marianna Kraznodebska, 97, Lublin
Righteous Helena Szachniewicz, 91, Ilawa
Righteous Helena Kusnierz, 90, Lublin
Righteous Tadeusz stankiewicz, 90, Warsaw
RighteousPiotr Karpicki, 93, Lidzbark Warminski
Righteous Zofia Krzyzanowska, 85, Warsaw
Lisowski, 88, Warsaw
Arutz Sheva spoke with Jonny Daniels, chairman and founder of "From the Depths," an organization which works to help both Holocaust survivors and Righteous Among the Nations.
Speaking form outside the Warsaw Ghetto, Daniels emphasized that "it falls upon a small group of us...to make sure that this memory is not forgotten and continues, even during this difficult time."
"My foundation...took it on ourselves as millennials, as young people involved in Holocaust memorial, to do what we can to assist and give help to the Righteous Among the Nations," who Daniels said are a "very small group of people" - about 400 who are still alive around the world, with most of them in Poland.
The organization will also send packages to Muslim Righteous Among the Nations in Albania - the only country to have been under Nazi occupation and which had more Jews after World War II than before.
"We're going from Righteous to Righteous every single day, with food, with medicine if they need, with whatever they need, to look after them, to make sure that they don't have to leave their homes and they can stay safe. We are trying our hardest to protect those who protected us just 75 years ago."
"Now is the time, more than any, to stand up, to be counted, to show up, giving love and credit to these people that deserve it the most," he emphasized, adding that the current generation are the "witnesses" who need to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is not forgotten.