At the beginning of the war it was one of Europe’s most Jewish cities making up thirty per cent of the population of Warsaw. Many of them were deported to the Nazi death camps.
The occupation of Warsaw during WWII began on October 1st, 1939 and lasted through to January 17th, 1945.
Krystina Kowalska, a baker’s daughter, is eighty-eight today and is well within the current high-risk age-range that has suffered the most fatalities during the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Governments across the world have been instructing seniors, especially those over 70 years of age and persons with underlying conditions to self-isolate until the Health emergency is over.
Krystina’s family risked everything in WWII when they successfully hid a Jewish family of four at their bakery.
Had they been discovered Krystina and her family would most likely have been shot by firing squad. Despite this she says she does not remember ever being afraid for herself. Many people took the risk of hiding Jewish families.
Today Krystina lives alone in a third storey apartment. She is a widow whose only son has predeceased her, so she is in a vulnerable position. ‘It’s a scary time for me to be outside as I see the impact of this virus on my age group,’ she said.
Commemoration group, From the Depths, had started giving free taxi rides under the name Silent Hero, to those identified as being WWII rescuers of Jews in 2019.
In light of recent global events the foundation has changed focus and converted its small fleet of four taxis into delivery vehicles for twenty Warsaw residents like Krystina who are recognised as Righteous Among the Nations.
The title is one given by Israel to non Jewish people who risked their lives in order to save Jews from the Nazi genocide.
Jonny Daniels, founder of From the Depths, personally delivers groceries to their homes while ensuring they are exposed to as little risk as possible by wearing a mask and gloves.
The taxis are also disinfected between deliveries.
Demand for the taxi service rose following the start of the pandemic with hoarding and panic buying forcing their elderly clientele to visit many more supermarkets than usual in order to find what they needed. Quite rightly it was also seen as less risky than using public transport.
Daniels and his team set about making a list of the Righteous and now plan to make home deliveries to approximately forty veterans of the occupation, with drivers and volunteers sourcing the groceries and disinfecting the taxis.
‘It means that I don’t have to go outside and risk my health,’ said Krystina Kowalska, ‘The fact that I can trust them means the world to me.’
Daniels confirmed that his team, ‘consulted medical staff and the technique we use is basically the same as what they do in ambulances.’
Since the taxi service was initiated many of the From the Depths clients have become friends, taking tea with Jonny and his volunteers and drivers.
For many the social element of the service is sometimes more important than the drive across town. These days he has to politely turn down the invitations to tea, ‘I just carry the bags into their apartments and I’m out of there,’ said Daniels.
Instead the From the Depths team keep in touch via telephone to ease the loneliness of quarantine.
The government in Poland has declared a ‘state of epidemic and has closed schools, cinemas and theatres and passed a ruling restricting public gathering of no more than fifty people and has not ruled out bringing in tighter restrictions on citizens.
Government spokesperson, Piotr Muller said, ‘The government is considering various options regarding the epidemic situation, including launching other limitations than up to date.’