Jan Zabinski was the director of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII. He, along with his wife Antonia, sheltered 300 Jews as well as Polish resisters in the home, in animal cages, and in sheds. Using the names of the animals as code names for the people in hiding, they risked their own lives to save those of strangers.
This would be a remarkable fiction story….
what makes it even more remarkable is that it is not fiction.
Using Antonia’s diaries, author Diane Ackerman takes us to a point in history where people ran for their very lives, hiding their heritage, and not knowing if this day may be your last….
it is a hard life to imagine from the comforts of my own life and times…
Russian born Antonia, and Polish Catholic Jan were a rarity and an enigma. They loved animals and would bring in any stray into their home. It was not uncommon to have not only cats and dogs in the home, but also a rabbit, birds, otters, badgers, lynx and more. All this while hiding people and ammunition within the zoo itself, as Europe crumbled all around.
This book was recommended to me by my friend Heidi over a year ago. I am usually quite open to book suggestions and in short time had the book in possession and on my shelf. Now – the trick was to find the time to read it. A couple of weeks ago I found it at my library in audio format and knew that was what would push this story to the front line.
Deeply immersed in the language of the times and the history in the making, I at first found this audio heavy with facts. As I became more aware of what was happening and how incredibly brave Jan and Antonina were as well as what they did for the Jewish
people – said to have saved over 300 people by hiding them in the zoo cages and in their home.
In the end, as what happens many times to me when I discover a new vein of history I knew little to nothing about, I want to know more. If you look on-line you will find many stories of the Warsaw Zoo and the Zabinski’s.
Today the Warsaw Zoo lives on and flourishes. Check out their website here and be amazed that this incredible Zoo that started in March 1928, still remain open and carrying with it a bounty of history.
Good Reads Review
I have updated WHERE Are You Reading Map to include The Zookeeper’s Wife
I borrowed this book on audio from my local library