A Holocaust survivor from Haifa, Israel, was reunited with his rescuer in New York on Wednesday.
Michael Hochberg, 77, and rescuer, Krystyna Jakubowska, 86, of Poland, met at John F Kennedy Airport at an event organized by the The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR). It was only the fourth time since the end of World War II that the pair had met.
The Jakubowski family rescued Hochberg 68 years ago during the Holocaust when his parents, through a mutual acquaintance, sent him away to keep him from being forced to live in the Warsaw ghetto with them.
"My mother used to know Michael's parents and my mother was a person who really loved children, so once Michael came to our home and after a few days when it was obvious that his guardian [who had brought him to the apartment] wasn't coming back to take him, she just decided in a second that he would stay with the family," explained Jakubowska through an interpreter.
"She also told my sisters and my brother how to behave in public and not to talk to the neighbors about Michael. We also couldn't bring our friends over."
For more than two years, Hochberg was kept hidden from the Germans by Jakubowska's mother, Rozalia, and her brother and sisters in an apartment despite the risk involved the Jakubowski family agreed to take him in.
"I was scared because I understood what was going on and what the consequences this act could have and also because the Germans announced often in public on the streets what would happen if someone was harboring a Jew and what would happen to them and their family -- death," said Krystyna who was a young teenager during the war.
Michael was not allowed to leave the Jakubowski apartment for fear of being denounced as a Jew. The only time he went outside was in the evening when it was too dark for anyone to see him. When it was deemed safe, Krystyna would go out on the balcony of their apartment with Michael. It was from this balcony that Michael saw the flames of the Warsaw Ghetto burning in April 1943, when unbeknownst to them Hochberg's parents were killed.
In August 1944, after the Polish Uprising, the Germans forcibly marched the entire civilian population of Warsaw out of the city. Rozalia Jakubowska refused to abandon Michael and took him with her family as they left Warsaw. Jozef Jakubowski, a member of the Polish Home Army, was killed in the Polish Uprising in August 1944. His wife, Rozalia, passed away that Christmas eve, leaving Krystyna responsible for the full-time care of Michael.
Michael remained with Krystyna until they were liberated by the Soviet army in 1945. Hochberg was then moved to a Jewish orphanage for a period before emigrating to the newly-created state of Israel.
"I didn't really have much time to say goodbye. The only thing I could really do, I just hugged everybody who was present at that moment at home. And then I left," said Hochberg.
Today, Michael lives in Haifa, Israel, and Krystyna Jakubowska continues to live in Warsaw, Poland.
The JFR, a non-profit organization which arranged the reunion, provided more than $36 million in financial assistance to some 500 aged and needy Righteous Gentiles, living in 20 countries, that helped the Jewish people during the Holocaust.