Why you should know her: A poor Polish farmer, she – along with her husband and son – sheltered and saved a Jewish family during the Holocaust.
Israel and Frania Rubinek were a recently married Jewish couple who opened a small shop in Pinczow, Poland, that sold goods to local farmers. One of the Rubineks’ customers was Zofia Bania, an impoverished Polish farming wife from a nearby village. Oftentimes, Zofia was unable to pay, and Frania gave her food and goods. The two women soon became friends.
As the threat of Nazi occupation loomed, Frania asked Zofia if the couple could hide in the Bania home. In the meantime, Israel built a hiding place beneath the Rubineks’ store.
In October of 1942, the Nazis began to round up and deport the area’s Jews, sending them to the Treblinka death camp. Israel and Frania hid in their underground bunker during the roundups. But they could not flee to safety, as Frania was eight months pregnant. As they wondered what to do, word arrived that Zofia Bania was looking for them.
Hiring a trusted man to hide them in his wagon, the Rubineks arrived at the Bania farm. Zofia greeted the couple warmly. “A mother does not greet her own child like this,” Frania remembered. “She was so happy. And this was more happiness because I saw that she wants me. I thought to myself–I’m going to survive the war here.”
Zofia’s husband, Ludwig, was not so warm. The difficult farmer was anti-Semitic, and did not want to hide Jews in his home. But his wife said they could not betray the couple, and that it was her duty to save them. This conflict constantly worried the Rubineks that Ludwig would turn them in.
For the first months, the couple stayed in the farm’s hayloft. It was there that Frania went into labor. She lost the baby, falling ill herself for three months. After this, Zofia moved the Rubineks into the small one-room farmhouse, where the couple shared space with the Banias and their son, Maniek.
Ludwig had by then warmed to the Jewish couple, even buying a guard dog to alert them to approaching strangers. Near the end of the war, the dog alerted them to approaching Nazi soldiers. The Rubineks hid in the small cellar just as the Germans entered the house. The Nazis declared they would spend the night. Zofia placed her son’s bed over the cellar entrance, hiding it from the soldiers. Israel Rubinek was ill, coughing violently. But young Maniek spent the whole night pretending the be ill, covering the sound of the Jewish man’s coughs with his own.
The Rubineks stayed at the farm until the area was liberated. After the war, they immigrated to Canada, where they had a son, Saul. Saul would go on to become a Hollywood actor and filmmaker, traveling to Poland in 1986 with his parents in order to make a documentary about their Holocaust experiences, So Many Miracles.
For the many miracles she helped provide the Rubinek family, Zofia Bania was named Righteous Among the Nations in 2011.Tags: Advocates and Allies