November 14, 2008

Tycoon’s family honors Polish Shoah rescuers

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”Today I’m not here to talk about business and economics,” smiled tycoon Yosef Maiman. ”I came here after a 20-hour flight to close a family circle and honor the Slavinsky family that saved my family during the Holocaust and that I heard so much about during my childhood in Peru.”

Maiman spoke last night at a ceremony at the Polish ambassador’s residence at which the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation awarded family members of Stanislava Slavinsky – 75-year-old Roman Slavinsky, his son Yatzek and his 15-year-old grandson Milosh – awards and a special medal issued by the foundation, the ”Aspira Maiman Medal for Women Rescuers.”

Yesterday’s event followed a Tuesday ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, at which Stanislava Slavinsky was named among the Righteous Among the Nations for her role in saving Maiman’s family.

The few dozen guests included friends and family members, ambassadors and a few representatives of the press. The only camera crew in the room worked for Maiman’s daughter, Noa, who is making a documentary about her family.

Maiman’s mother Aspira, now 94, left Lodz, Poland with her family at the outbreak of World War II. Aspira explained yesterday that they had decided to leave their home in Lodz for Warsaw expecting ”that it would be better there, since we didn’t think the Nazis would get there.”

The family’s hopes were shattered upon their arrival and they were forced to move into the city’s Jewish ghetto.

A few months later, Aspira escaped the ghetto with her first husband Roman Domb, her sister-in-law and her daughter. The Polish underground helped Aspira and her family, along with three other Jews, get to the Slavinsky family outside the city. Their nephew Roman lived with the childless couple. The family hid the Jews in the cellar of their home for three years until a few months after the end of the war. Aspira and the other refugees moved to a displaced persons camp in Germany, where Aspira met her second husband, Yisrael Maiman.

”The Slavinsky family risked their lives to rescue my family,” Yosef Maiman said. ”Roman, who was ten at the time, helped to hide the Jews and even helped the Polish underground fight the Nazis. When a neighbor discovered there were Jews hiding in their home and tried to blackmail them, the Slavinskys paid him off to keep quiet, despite their own impoverished state.”

Aspira corresponded with Stanislava from after the war until 1968, when the Communist regime began to return her letters.

After many years of fruitless searches, this year she asked the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation to find them. The foundation found a letter Stanislava had written to Yad Vashem in 1961 describing the Jews she saved and using the letter, was able to locate Roman Slavinsky.

”After it had been verified he was the same Roman Slavinsky, we spoke on the phone. It was very emotional and we both cried,” Aspira recounted.

”In that call I also found out that Stanislava had died in 1971 and I would never see her again. She was like a sister to me – my war sister and my sister for life,” Aspira said.

Roman himself was slightly embarrassed by the award.

”What we did during the war was our natural obligation, we didn’t think we deserved a prize for it,” he said.

Roman showed emotion for the first time at the end of the ceremony, reading the inscription on the front of a photo album Maiman’s son Ohad gave him. ”A special thanks to your family which enabled my family to exist.”