Roman Polanski is to travel to Poland next week to witness the honoring of the people who selflessly risked their own lives to protect him during the Holocaust, according to Israeli daily Haaretz. The honor of the title Righteous Among the Nations will be presented to the decedents of the couple who saved Polanski by the Yad Vashem Institute.
In 2019, Yad Vashem announced that it was going to grant the title to Jan and Stefania Buchała. The medal commemorating their actions will be presented to their grandson Stanisław. Polanski is expected to be present at the ceremony.
Polanski, an acclaimed director of films such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and the “Pianist”, was born in Paris in 1933 as Raymond Thierry Liebling, as the son of a Jew and a Catholic.
He came to Poland when he was 4 years old. The whole family found itself in the Krakow ghetto established after Nazi Germany invaded Poland. With the aid of his father, Roman escaped from the ghetto in 1943.
He stayed with two families who protected him briefly in exchange for payment only to be taken in the end to the small village of Wysoka, 30 kilometers from Kraków, to stay with a poor peasant family which already had three children of their own.
Despite the hardship they faced, they accepted Roman and treated him as if he was their own son.
In a letter to Yad Vashem, Polanski wrote that “Stefania did this without any remuneration, purely for love she risked her own and her family’s life hiding me in their home for nearly two years. At a time of poverty and hunger she protected and fed me”.
During World War II, hiding Jews in occupied Poland was punished by death penalty.
Polanski visited Wysoka after the war twice but was unable to track down those who saved him. He later learned that Stefania died of tuberculosis in 1953 and her husband died a month later.
Polanski’s father, Maurycy Liebling, was taken from the ghetto to Mauthausen concentration camp. He survived the war. His wife Bella Katz-Przedborska was taken to Auschwitz where she was killed.
Yad Vashem has awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations to 27,712 heroes. 7112 of them who were Poles, the largest national group among the 51 nations represented.