Stefania (Fusia) Podgorska, Poland

Stefania Podgorska, at the age of 14, worked in a grocery store in Przemyl owned by the Diamants, a Jewish family. Stefania grew very close to the Diamants, who eventually took her in after the Nazi invasion of September 1939. She continued to live with the Diamants and work at the store even after the Soviet occupation that occurred subsequent to the defeat and dismemberment of Poland by Germany and the USSR.

In June 1941, the Nazis again occupied Przemyl. Like all Jews, the Diamants were forced into a ghetto. Furthermore, Stefania’s mother was sent to Germany for forced labor. Stefania, now 16 years old, was on her own and left to care for her 6-year-old sister. She found an apartment outside the ghetto and survived by trading clothes for food. In 1942, she learned that the ghetto was being liquidated. She decided to help her Jewish neighbors escape the final roundups by hiding them. She moved to a cottage for more space to accommodate the growing number of fugitives. At one point, she had 13 Jews living in a secret space in her attic.

In July 1944, Przemyl was liberated. All of the Jews that Stefania helped to hide survived. In 1961, she moved to the United States with her husband Josef Burzminski, a Jew who had escaped from a boxcar transporting him to the Belzec death camp and who went to Stefania for assistance.

Edited by Stephanie Surach