Holocaust survivor reunites with Polish woman who saved her
NEW YORK – Sixty-one years ago, Joanna Zalucka hid a young Jewish girl in her bedroom for eight months, keeping the child from the Nazis in their native Poland during the Holocaust.The girl survived, rejoined her parents and moved to Brooklyn in 1953. On Friday, Ruth Gruener, now 72, was reunited with her Polish friend at Kennedy International Airport.”It is just so wonderful that no words can describe how I feel,” said Gruener, sobbing as she hugged Zalucka. Although the two have corresponded for decades, they hadn’t seen one another since 1944.”It’s a miracle,” Zalucka, now 81, said in Polish.Gruener’s survival in their hometown of Lvov, Poland, was a miracle as well. She said she and her parents were the only ones from an extended family of 300 who survived the Holocaust.Gruener’s parents had placed her in Zalucka’s Christian home because they feared the Nazis would deport their daughter – or worse. Gruener spent most of her time there just sitting in a chair in Joanna’s bedroom, afraid to even look out the window. Joanna, then 18, was in charge of keeping an eye on the girl.When visitors came, the 8-year-old would hide under Joanna’s bed or in a trunk. Ruth spent so much time immobilized that she had to relearn how to walk normally. After eight months, Ruth went to the home of another Christian family that was hiding her parents.Once the war was over, Ruth and her family went to Munich, Germany, and then Brooklyn. Ruth eventually married another Holocaust survivor, Jack Gruener, and started a family.Zalucka will spend the next two weeks in New York with Gruener and her family.The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous brought the pair together.