Recollection and recognition
While both Jan and Antonina have received high recognition and honors in many quarters over the decades, including recognition of Jan by the State of Israel as “Polish Righteous Among Nations” in 1965 and, more recently, the posthumous award of the “Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta” to both of them by the Polish government in 2015, the full tale and message of their deeds was suppressed for decades under the previous communist regime along with many stories of Polish heroism.
In fact, after rebuilding the zoo following the war, Jan Zabinski was forced to resign his post as director in 1951 amid politically motivated accusations by the communist authorities of collaboration with the Nazis during the war.
The Zabinski’s daughter, Teresa Zawadzka-Zabinski remains closely connected with the villa and its work, as does her son and the Zabinski’s grandson, Dominik Zawadzki. Unfortunately, the Zabinski’s son Ryszard, whose childhood was spent at the villa and is remembered fondly by survivors for smuggling food to them around the zoo grounds, passed away recently.
And while there has been a surge of interest in the villa and the story of the Zabinskis since the Hollywood movie released in 2017, the villa has never had its own financial or management platform to truly harness this interest and its universally resonant message, or the history that it has seen.