12 November 2011
On Sunday December 11, 2011, Yad Vashem held a ceremony posthumously honoring Jerzy Ponczynski, as Righteous Among the Nations from Poland. His children, from Israel and abroad, accepted the medal and certificate of honor on his behalf. The event took place in the presence of the children of the Righteous and the survivor.
A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance was held followed by the awarding of the medal and certificate in the Synagogue at Yad Vashem. The events took place in Hebrew and Polish.
The Rescue Story
At the beginning of 1942, Ita Zabara found herself wandering between Kiev and Lvov. Her husband had disappeared, her one-and-a-half year old daughter Svetlana was taken away by a Ukranian man in an effort to rescue the toddler, and her parents and brother were deported to the Caucasus region. She was now alone in the world. Finding herself at a train station, but uncertain where to go, she was forced by the Germans onto a train headed for Babi Yar. When the train approached Rovno, Ita jumped from the train. She then approached a young Pole who was fishing on the banks of the river, and asked him for help. She confessed to him that she was Jewish and being pursued. Luckily the young man, Jerzy Ponczynsky, came to her aid. Initially, Jerzy hid Ita in the basement of his parents, keeping her concealed from his mother and father. When his parents left the house, Jerzy would bring her upstairs so that she could wash up. Ita couldn't remain in her hiding place for too long, and Jerzy moved her to his aunt's home. Later, when denouncements of Jerzy's aunt for hiding Jews began to circulate, Ita and Jerzy were once again forced to leave. Ita and Jerzy spent the remainder of the war in the ghettos in Rovno and Czestochowa, where they survived until liberation.
Jerzy and Ita married and had eight children. Seventeen years after Ita parted from her daughter Svetlana, the two were reunited.
Ita passed away in 1987. Before his death in 1989, Jerzy told his children that they should not remain in Poland, and that as Jews they should move to Israel, where six of them now live.
On March 22, 2011, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem decided to award Jerzy Ponczynski the title of Righteous Among the Nations.