Anna Kopec, left, embraces Sally Charsinsky at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Holocaust survivor, rescuer reunited
Wednesday, December 4, 2002 Posted: 10:46 AM EST (1546 GMT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Six decades after she risked her life to shelter her Jewish neighbors from the Nazis, a Polish woman traveled on a plane for the first time in her life for a reunion with a member of the family she helped save.
"I love you, Anna," Holocaust survivor Sally Charsinsky said Tuesday as she hugged Anna Kopec at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Kopec, now 83, and her husband, Stanislaw, hid Charsinsky's father and brother in a room of their home in Sowina, Poland, and often kept the teenage Charsinsky there, too.
Once, when Nazi soldiers came door-to-door searching houses for Jews, Charsinsky didn't have time to hide. Kopec told her to grab a brush, go to the barn and groom the horses.
Kopec told the soldiers Charsinsky was a relative visiting from out of town and distracted them by preparing a large meal for them, Charsinsky recalled.
"I can't do enough for her. She sacrificed her life for my family," said Charsinsky, 79, who moved to the United States after World War II, married an American man and now lives in Longport, New Jersey.
Charsinsky and Kopec wiped away tears and launched into a spirited conversation in Polish, trading memories, gossip and tales of their grandchildren.
"This brings me back to the good years we had in Sowina before the Nazis arrived. My heart is beating like this," Kopec said, quickly patting her chest.
The two women were reunited by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a nonprofit organization that identifies, honors and supports non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
The group provides monthly financial assistance to more than 1,700 aged and needy rescuers, including Kopec, in 27 countries.
Kopec is staying with Charsinsky during her visit, and Charsinsky plans to take her shopping, to Atlantic City and to synagogues to tell their story. Kopec also will be reunited with Charsinsky's surviving siblings.
Asked why she risked her life to help Charsinsky's family, Kopec -- a Catholic who walks an hour each week from her farm to church -- became so animated her translator could barely keep up.
"Whoever believes in God and whoever is religious will never turn away from another person. They will always help another human being," she said. "That's what I was taught."