On September 8, we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jan Żabiński, an outstanding zoologist and long-time director of the Municipal Zoological Garden in Warsaw, educator, Home Army soldier and fighter in the Warsaw Uprising. The Żabinski Foundation, in cooperation with the Municipal Zoological Garden in Warsaw and the Panda Foundation, had the pleasure of organizing a ceremony commemorating this special anniversary.

This year’s celebration of Jan Żabiński’s birthday took place at the Żabiński Villa, located on the grounds of the Municipal Zoological Garden in Warsaw. The official part of the event was hosted by the founders of the Żabiński Foundation: David Dixon, partner in the Dentons Warsaw office and Dominik Zawadzki, grandson of Antonina and Jan Żabiński and vice chairman of the Foundation’s board, as well as Anat Arazi, president of the Foundation’s board. During the event, a short speech was delivered by Dr. Yakov Livne, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, who emphasized the significance of the achievements of Jan Żabiński’s work, recognized together with his wife by Yad Vashem and the State of Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations”.

Speakers at the ceremony included U.S. Consul General Hale VanKoughnett, Andrzej Kruszewicz, director of Warsaw Municipal Zoo, Ewa Rembiszewska, CEO of the Panda Foundation, and Magdalena Młochowska, acting Director Coordinator for Green Warsaw. Invited guests had the pleasure of listening to a concert of Frederic Chopin’s music, performed by the talented Polish pianist Jakub Kuszlik, one of the winners at the 18th International Chopin Piano Competition.

Among the guests were representatives of the City of Warsaw, the American Chamber of Commerce and Polish-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, as well as numerous representatives of the business world. The ceremony was also attended by Antonina and Jan Żabiński’s grandchildren: Dominik and two granddaughters with their families.

I am extremely touched that such a large number of distinguished guests attended the celebration of my grandfather’s 125th birthday. Today’s event is not only a wonderful celebration accompanied by the music of Frederic Chopin, but also a great opportunity to remind the world of the legacy of Antonina and Jan Żabiński. I’m sure my grandfather would have been immensely happy with such a commemoration, and he would probably have said of his actions: it was common human decency, and it was the right thing to do,” said Dominik Zawadzki.

Israel’s Ambassador Dr. Yakov Livne said: “Memorializing the actions of Antonina and Jan Żabiński, who saved several hundred people of Jewish heritage in occupied Warsaw, is very important. Let’s think about what could have happened if ten, a hundred or even a thousand married couples like the Żabińskis had lived in Warsaw at the time. Every Varsovian and every Pole can be proud of what the Żabiński family did, of their heroic attitude. We certainly will not forget it and will always treasure it.”

U.S. Consul General Hale VanKoughnett added, “This inaugural ceremony presented by the Żabiński Foundation at the Żabiński Villa was a great opportunity to honor the heroic actions of Jan and Antonina Żabiński. Unfortunately, in 2022 we see the repeated horrors of warfare from a divided Europe’s past. But we also see repeated acts of heroism that accompany this terror: ordinary people resisting and changing the conditions of war. We can all be inspired by the actions of the Żabiński family.”

The Żabinski Foundation was established in 2020 to spread and protect the legacy of Antonina and Jan Żabiński. The Żabiński couple rescued hundreds of people, mostly of Jewish origin, during World War II by taking them out of Warsaw and hiding them in a villa at the Warsaw Zoo (now known as the Żabiński Villa) and in empty animal cages. Their heroic actions were done at the risk of their own lives, but also the lives of their then several-year-old son Ryszard. The story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński is presented in Diane Ackerman’s book entitled “The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on which a Hollywood film of the same title was made, starring Jessica Chastain.

partner kancelarii Dentons, David Dixon i Dominik Zawadzki (Fundacja Żabińskich), Jakub Kuszlik (pianista), Shani Tayar (Wiceambasador Izraela w Polsce), dr Yakov Livne (Ambasador Izraela w Polsce), Anat Arazi (Fundacja Żabińskich) oraz Elena Lagutin (Dyrektor ds. Dyplomacji Publicznej Ambasady Izraela)

David Dixon

More information about Żabinski Foundation is available at www.zabinskifoundation.com


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