Sabina Wolanski remembered by ABC producer

June 26, 2011 Agencies
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Sabina Wolanski won a nation’s heart when her life was featured two weeks ago on “Australian Story”. She passed away on Thursday and is remembered by Jennifer Feller who produced the episode.

from Jennifer Feller

Sabina Wolanski was a remarkable woman.

Sabina Wolanski photo courtesy ABC

When I interviewed her daughter Josie and her son Phil for ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ it was clear that they were incredibly proud of their mother. To Phil “she was a leader, a successful business woman before most women even worked”. To Josie she was “a woman of style”.

But of all her talents I think it was Sabina’s way with words that was her greatest gift. Whether she was telling her story to schoolchildren or to the Chancellor of Germany, she was able to touch hearts in a way very few people can.

Born in Boryslaw, Poland in 1927 Sabina witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and was the sole survivor of her family. Hers is a remarkable tale of survival. She was hidden, captured, released, and “passed around like a parcel” between the “kind Christian families” who took her in. As her friend Ruth Wilson said to me “It says something of Sabina’s character that so many people wanted to protect her”.

Sabina spent the last months of the war hidden in a forest bunker that her adored brother, Josek, had built for her. Tragically, Josek and her father were executed just a few weeks before liberation. Her mother, whom she missed dreadfully, had been sent to the gas chambers of Belzec earlier in the war. By the war’s end Sabina was 17 years of age and totally alone.

Yet she emerged from these horrors with her spirit unbroken and her humanity in tact.

Sabina told her story to thousands of Australian schoolchildren through B’nai B’rith’s ‘Courage to Care’ program, urging them to stand up for the weak and the bullied, just  as so many people had done for her.

In 2005 Sabina’s story reached a global audience when she gave her speech at the launch of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was a speech of great humanity and of enormous significance to today’s Germans.

When she finished telling her story to the audience of 1000 or so dignitaries, the “who’s who” as Sabina called them, the ovation lasted for minutes. Her speech of hope and reconciliation ‘the children of killers are not killers’ moved the audience to tears.  Sabina had found the right words once again.

Despite her experiences Sabina fervently believed in the essential goodness of people. She spent the last two decades spreading that message with enormous energy.

Her husband Kjeld said of Sabina just recently “Although I am many years younger than Sabina I have trouble keeping up with her, she literally doesn’t stop”.

I was lucky enough to meet Sabina last year and during the short period I knew her experienced her warmth and generosity on many occasions. It was an honour to know her and an even greater honour to produce her story for television. I shall miss her terribly.

Watch the recent ‘Australian Story’, ‘The Girl from Boryslaw’ at the link below.

Sabina’s speech where talks on behalf of the 6,000,000 can be watched here in its entirety

Sabina Wolanski and Diana Bagnall co-authored her memoirs in ‘Destined to Live: War. Life, Loves Remembered’

Sabina Wolanski’s funeral will be held at Sydney’s Chevra Kadisha at 9:30 this morning [Sunday]

J-Wire thanks the ABC for its co-operation.


6 Responses to “Sabina Wolanski remembered by ABC producer”
  1. Chris says:

    I have only just viewed a replay of the ‘Australian Story’ about the courageous and remarkable woman Sabina Wolinski. I was moved to tears by her grace and humanity that she displayed in her speech to a largely German audience.How she was able to build a happy and successful new life in Australia after the horrors that she and her family had endured during WW11,is inspirational and shows what the human spirit can overcome. I was saddened when I found out about her passing some 2 weeks after the program had aired back in 2011,but we are all so fortunate that we got to hear and see her incredible story of survival,may she rest in peace.

  2. Otto Allen says:

    I watched the re-broadcast on 04/ 02 and was very much moved by her story.she led a remarkable life
    and it is very sad she is no longer with us.
    Her humanitarian approach to people especially as stated in her speech at the unveiling of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is testimony to her compassionate and kind spirit

    Otto A Grossman

  3. Richard says:

    Sabina’s story is an example of the perseverance of good people which eventually overcomes the forces of evil. I have not seen Europe’s WW2 prison sites, but I have visited a very moving memorial in Nanjing in China. This memorial commemorates the killing of 300,000 Chinese at the hands of the invading Japanese in the 1930s. Sights that moved me included observing some visitors fall to their knees and weep and pray at the sight of some ancestor’s photograph or image or story. I spent hours gradually studying all of the artifacts available, and reading all of the literature on show at this Memorial. I was also moved by the snippets of information which showed that some Japanese soldiers tried to prevent wholesale bloodshed, only to themselves become victims of the horror. As Sabina Wolanski said, and rightly so: there are good and bad people in every race, in every country. It is to humanity’s credit that the good generally succeed, though never easily and never quickly.

  4. Peter Shelton says:

    In the short time I knew of her story I have been firstly hugely encouraged by her attitude to her life but then very very saddened to hear of her passing.The speech she made in Berlin 2005 was one of the finest examples of the victory of the human spirit over unbelievable cruelty and oppression I have ever witnessed. I hope she had a wonderful life in this beautiful country. Schools could learn something from studying that speech.
    Rest In Peace.

  5. Odile Faludi says:

    One could not help but be moved when watching recently the ABC-TV story on Sabina Wolanski. Her generosity of spirit was the stand out feature of the moving documentary.

    May she rest in peace.

    Odile Faludi

  6. shiree says:

    Rest In Peace.. God Bless this inspiring and courageous lady!

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