Reunited after 61 years were a Jewish woman who as a girl was hidden by a young Polish woman and her savior. The Polish woman, Joanna Zalucka, saved the life of Ruth Gruener who after being hidden survived the war and was able to rejoin her parents and move the US.

Gruener’s survival in their hometown of Lvov, Poland, was a miracle as well; she and her parents were the only ones from an extended family of 300 who survived the Holocaust.

Her father smuggled her out of the ghetto under his overcoat and placed her with Zalucka’s family because he expected to be slaughtered.

Ukrainian nationalists had already begun ransacking Jewish homes at night. Families disappeared in waves, presumably taken away to concentration camps.

“I heard screams every evening,” Gruener said. “To a child’s ears, it was just horrible.”

Ruth spent most of her eight months at Zalucka’s home just sitting in a chair, afraid to even look out the window from Joanna’s bedroom. Joanna, then 18, was in charge of keeping an eye on the girl.

When visitors came, the 8-year-old would hide under Joanna’s bed or duck into a trunk. Ruth spent so much time silent and immobilized that she had to relearn how to walk and speak normally. After eight months, Ruth was brought
to the home of another Christian family that hid her parents for another two years.

Needless to say, had Joanna been caught harboring a Jew, she would have been killed. And yet, she did it. Along with recognition, she is receiving pension and medical assistance from The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. They are now on my list of charities to support this coming year.

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