World's oldest Righteous, Pole, celebrates 101st birthday

She had risked her own life to shelter a Jewish boy from the Nazi-German persecution during WWII, for which she was later awarded Righteous Among the Nations title. Polish Anna Koźmińska, the oldest living Righteous Among the Nations, celebrates her 101st birthday on Friday.

The Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) has written that during WWII, “Maria Koźmińska and her stepdaughter Anna lived in Częstochowa”, central Poland. “In the years 1943–45, they provided shelter for a Jewish boy, Abraham Jabłoński (who was in possession of documents belonging to a child killed by the Germans – Bohdan Wojciech Bloch). They also temporarily sheltered Mr Rubinstein, a distant relative of the Jabłoński family and his friend Rita, along with her mother Stefa.”

A series of events that brought the eight-year-old boy to the sanctuary of Ms Koźmińska’s home was truly traumatic. Little Abraham, just like 48,000 other Jews, was held captive in the ghetto established by Nazi-Germans in Częstochowa. With the help of his older sister Iza, he managed to escape the ghetto and an imminent death during its liquidation in September 1942.

“Among other places, Abraham hid in a coal-cellar, where he began to lose his eyesight. Upon his uncle's request, Maria Koźmińska and her stepdaughter Anna agreed to shelter the boy. They told their friends and acquaintances that the boy had been through a family tragedy, had lost his father and was temporarily under their care,” the IPN wrote.

As the Institute reported, “Maria and Anna Koźmińska took very good care of Abraham and comforted him. They also did their best to ensure his education and took him for walks.” They put their own lives on the line when the Germans had searched their home. Fortunately, they failed to find the boy.

The kindness of the heart of the Polish women was not forgotten by Abraham Jabłoński who, having emigrated to Israel in the aftermath of WWII, “testified to the humanity and courage of” his saviours.

According to the IPN, Kozminska's story remained unknown for decades.

“After 47 years, he found Anna Koźmińska in Warsaw. He asked her to write her memoirs from that time, which she did. Upon Abraham Jabłoński’s motion, Maria and Anna Koźmińska were honoured by the Yad Vashem Institute with the title of Righteous Among the Nations on 11 February 1991,” the IPN wrote.

Moreover, Anna Koźmińska received the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta from the President of Poland Andrzej Duda in 2016.

To pay respects to Ms Koźmińska on her 101st birthday, Mateusz Szpytma, the Deputy Head of the Institute of National Remembrance, was scheduled to visit the Polish Righteous. The meeting, however, was jeopardised by the coronavirus epidemic. Nevertheless, the IPN’s management has sent Anna Koźmińska its best wishes and a bouquet of flowers.