In the picture they look like a happy family. The truth is unbelievably brutal.
It was 1943 and the National Socialists had been waging war across Europe to expand the German Reich. One country after the other was occupied by the Nazis while the Holocaust reached its horrible peak. For Jews throughout Europe, it looked like there would be no escape and Poland was no exception.
Michael Hochberg was four years old at the time and lived with his family in Warsaw in the Jewish ghetto that was being decimated by deportation. His parents knew that a cruel fate awaited all those who were shipped out on the trains that left the city almost daily. One day, Michael's mother couldn't stand it any longer. Hoping to at least save her son, she threw him over the wall into the non-Jewish part of the city. She had made arrangements with some Polish resistance fighters who picked him up and took him to safety.
Michael was taken in by the Catholic couple Rosalla and Josef Jakubowska, and just in time. A short time later the Warsaw Uprising began and was quickly and brutally quashed by the Nazi occupiers. Michael still remembers looking out the window and seeing flames lighting up the night sky.
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For two long years the Jakubowskas hid their adopted child and little Michael rarely felt the sun on his face. Venturing outside during the day was too risky, so the couple only took him out after dark. Rosalla and Josef were also active in the resistance and refused to bow to the Nazi invaders. They were constantly reminded by their occupiers that people who were hiding Jews were actually putting their families in danger. But the Jakubowskas didn't waver and continued to protect Michael as if he were their own son.
When the war was finally over, Michael was still alive thanks to the Jakubowskas' bravery. He soon found out, however, that his parents had died in a concentration camp. Rosalla and Josef wanted to reunite Michael with his family and took him to an orphanage where he was picked up by his surviving relatives. In the 1950s, he emigrated to Israel and started his own family. But he never forgot the Polish family that had risked so much for him.
And then something very special happened. Seventy years after the war, Michael found out that Rosalla and Josef's daughter Kristina was still alive and living in Warsaw. He contacted her and they arranged to meet in New York. After decades apart, Michael was reunited with his "big sister." It was touching scene. Michael had always referred to Kristina as his "flower" and made sure to bring a beautiful bouquet for her.
You can watch their beautiful reunion in this video...
It's a moving story of loss, sacrifice and survival, and proof that kindness and humanity cannot be destroyed by the brutalities of war. There are always people whose strength of character shines through and enables them to do the right thing, even when their own lives are at stake. And it is these people who find hope where no hope seems to exist.