Polish Woman, 100, Who Saved Jewish Girl During Holocaust Named Righteous Among the Nations

Aleksandra Cybulska and her husband housed Sonia Berkowicz, whose family was killed in the Holocaust, and gave her a false certificate identifying her as a Christian

Aleksandra Cybulska receives the Righteous Among the Nations certificate in her home in Gdynia, Poland, October 19, 2017.
Dorota Petser

A 100-year-old Polish woman was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations last week for her role in saving the life of a Jewish girl during the Holocaust.

Aleksandra Cybulska received the recognition, which is awarded by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum, at her home in the northern Polish town of Gdynia last Thursday. It was presented by Israel’s deputy ambassador to Poland, Ruth Cohen-Dar. 

Cybulska’s husband, Kazimierz Cybulska, who died in 2002 at age 94, was also declared a Righteous Among the Nations. 

The two were awarded the recognition for having protected a Jewish girl, Sonia Berkowicz. They were friends of Sonia’s parents, Gershon and Idel Berkowicz.

The Nazis deported the Berkowicz family to the Kleck ghetto near Minsk, which is now part of Belarus. In the spring of 1942, Sonia Berkowicz and her brothers knocked on the Cybulskas’ door in the village of Jakszyce and asked for food. For a few days, the Polish couple sheltered all the siblings in their home, but later, the brothers returned to the ghetto and Sonia remained there alone.

The website of POLIN, the Jewish museum in Warsaw, wrote that with the help of a local priest, Sonia was given a false certificate declaring that she had been baptized a Christian under the name Zofia Flejow. She remained with the Cybulskas until 1943.

Later, she was sent to another family in a village near Pinsk, but she stayed in touch with the Cybulskas and later returned to them. She remained with them until 1946, when she was handed over to a Jewish organization that rescued Jewish orphans after the war.

Sonia’s parents and brothers were killed in the Holocaust. She moved to Israel shortly after the war before immigrating to the United States.

In the 1950s, she lost touch with the Cybulskas. It later turned out she didn’t know they had moved to Gdynia and had therefore written to them at their former address. But this year, she made contract with Aleksandra Cybulska via the internet. 

As of now, Sonia Liberman (née Berkowicz) is 84. She and her three children live in the United States.

To date, 26,513 people have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Of them, 6,706 are Poles.