Jan and Antonina not only open their home and hearts to human refugees, but animal refugees as well. The animals were treated as part of the family and many were given free roam off the house. Their presence helped bring some levity to the tension Jan and Antonina lived with, for fear of being discovered safeguarding around 300 Jewish war refugees at different times throughout the course of the war.
Jan, Antonina, and their children also survived the war, rebuilt the destroyed zoo, and were even able to reclaim many of the animals taken during the war. Jan and Antonina both took great risks to help others even at the expense of jeopardizing their own safety. Jan was eventually sent to a POW camp for a couple of years and, unlike many other prisoners of war, lived through the experience and was released in 1946. Antonina endured a lot to ensure the safety of others. Ackerman quotes Jan in stating, “Antonina was a housewife”… “she wasn’t involved in politics or war, and was timid, and yet despite that she played a major role in saving others and never once complained about the danger” (pg. 314).
- What do you think of the risks the Zabinkski’s took to help others and what compelled them to do this?
- Even though the Zabinkski’s only saved around 300 people, which is a tiny amount in comparison to the lives lost during the war; however, do you think that their story is still an important one to tell?