Warszawa / Praga / Warsaw Zoological Garden
  • The Żabinskis’ villa at the Warsaw ZOO, photo: Warsaw Zoological Garden

  • Modern day interior of the Żabińskis’ villa, photo: K. Jackl, POLIN Museum

  • Jan Żabiński, photo: Warsaw Zoological Garden

  • Antonina and Jan Żabiński, photo: Warsaw Zoological Garden

  • Accounts of Stefania Koeningswein and Teresa Zawadzki de domo Żabińska, 2014, POLIN Museum

The Żabiński Family

“I looked at them with despair; their appearance and the way they spoke made things fairly obvious”, Antonina Żabińska recalls an evening when more escapees from the ghetto knocked on the door of the villa in the Warsaw ZOO.

Jan Żabiński, the prewar director of the ZOO, his wife and even their young son Ryś were involved in conspiratorial activities from the beginning of the German occupation. They hid people, arms and ammunition in the empty cages and pavilions. Jews too found a shelter there. Żabiński arranged false documents, searched for hideouts, and himself led several people out to the ‘Aryan’ side.

In case of approaching danger, secret tenants of the villa in the ZOO used to hide in the attic, bathroom, built-in wardrobe, or they fled through the tunnel leading from the basement to the garden. Danger was announced by the melody, performed by Antonina on her grand piano or sung – a piece from Offenbach’s La belle Hélène operetta entitled “Go, go to Crete!”

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