My choice for #WCW this week is Antonina Zabinski. When I watched the movie The Zookeeper’s wife the other day I was inspired by her and her husband courage and it was a reminder that we have the capacity to do what we can with the little we have got.
Orphaned at 9, Antonina learned early how to read people. She painted, spoke several languages and was passionate about polka dots – and animals. After marrying Jan in 1931, she reared orphaned lynx and lion cubs alongside their son, Rys, at their zoo home.
Later, as Antonina helped Jan smuggle Jews out of the ghetto, she adopted them too.
When aiding a Jew in Poland was punishable by death, the Zabinskis saved 300 of them. Their story, recounted in Diane Ackerman’s haunting 2007 book, “The Zookeeper’s wife,” is the basis for the film of the same name, it stars Jessica Chastain as Antonina, a woman of compassion so fierce, you wonder why she isn’t better known.
She and Jan were determined to save as many people as they could, and by many ruse possible. Persuading the Nazis to let them raise pigs for meat for German soldiers gave Jan an excuse to drive his truck into the ghetto: on the pretense of gathering garbage for hog feed, he smuggled food and money in and people out. Both he and Antonina always kept cyanide capsules at the ready, in case they were caught.
Edit“I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m drowning in a gray sea, like they’re flooding the whole city, washing away our past and people, dashing everything from the face of the earth.” Antonina Zabinski
Sources: New York Post