The Zookeeper’s Wife – a powerful tale of heroism during World War 2

Ann reflects on watching a special screening of a film about Polish zookeepers who protected and saved the lives of many Jews during WW2.

Zoo survivor Moshe Tirosh with Polish Ambassador Arkady RzegockiZoo survivor Moshe Tirosh with Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki (Photo: Polish Embassy to the UK)
Zoo survivor Moshe Tirosh with Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki (Photo: Polish Embassy to the UK)

Last Sunday, Phil and I had the privilege of attending a private showing of ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife‘ at the Regent Street Cinema.

The screening was hosted by His Excellency, Dr Arkady Rzegocki, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in the UK and Antony Lishak, director of Learning from the Righteous.

The film was not an easy watch, but it was an excellent portrayal of the true story of Antonina and Jan Zablinski, directors of the Warsaw Zoo. They risked their lives during World War II to save over 300 Jews and resistance fighters by providing shelter in bombed-out animal enclosures and in the basement of their villa home.

After the screening, Antony Lishak talked about his educational workshops where they use stories of ‘The Rightous Among the Nations‘ to inspire children to want to have a positive impact on the world.

The children are inspired by the actions of those who chose to make a difference. In response to the stories, the children are encouraged to get involved in community work and social action, proving that the world can be changed “One kind deed at a time”.

We then heard from Moshe Tirosh, who recalled his time being smuggled out of the ghetto aged six with his four year old sister. They were hidden for three weeks in the basement of the villa in the zoo, his parents hidden in the back of an empty aviary. He told us how he was the protector of his sister and how they had to be quiet for hours on end so as not to alert the Nazis.

It was terrifying times, as the Nazis treated the grounds of the zoo like their own private park but were oblivious to the fact that all around them Jews were hidden.

He recalls how Antonina’s kindness and warmth calmed and reassured him after the uncertainties of the ghetto. Moshe Tirosh and his family all survived the war thanks to the selflessness of the Zabinskis.

There was a poignant reflection from a child who attended a school workshop on Learning from the Righteous:

“The world is full of grown-ups who haven’t learnt from history’s mistakes. I wonder if those lessons will have been learnt when I am an adult? I hope so.”