For Holocaust survivor Leon Gersten, Hanukkah
and Thanksgiving had a special meaning this year. On Wednesday, he was reunited with the
man whose family kept him hidden from the Nazis during the Second World War. Gersten
saw his savior Czeslaw Polziec for the first time in 69 years at JFK International Airport
in New York. During World War II, Gersten, his parents, his mother’s sister and brother-in-law’s
family, were kept hidden from the Nazis for two years by Poleziec’s parents in their attic.
Despite the risk and having five children of their own, the Poleziecs took the family
in, enduring Nazi raids and beatings. Czeslaw Polziec was their eldest son. I cannot believe that I am here. I am very
happy that after 69 years of separation, I can finally meet my friend. Gersten, who went on to become a clinical psychologist,
thanked Polziec. You, and of course your parents
are the ones who saved our lives. And the only reason that we are
alive is because of you and your family, and especially your parents. The Gersten family and the Wiesenfeld family
lived with the Polziecs until July 1944 when the area was liberated by Soviet soldiers.
Gersten said he and his cousin had a hard time keeping themselves busy during that period. We had nothing to play with, so all we could
do is watch spiders catching flies. It might not be a pleasant thing to mention, but of
course we all had lice… So we did search missions, spending time looking for lice on
each other’s heads. The reunion was even more special for Gersten
as Wednesday was the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and Thursday
was Thanksgiving Day. Gersten currently lives in New York, while Polziec lives in Poland.
The meeting was organised by the non-profit group, The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.