Roman Polanski thanks the Polish family who hid him from the Nazis when he was a child as Israel bestows honour on the late couple
- Stefania and Jan Buchala were given the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ title
- The controversial director attended Thursday’s ceremony in Gliwice, Poland
- Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in California in 1977
- Organisers of the award said ‘the award is given to the rescuers, not the survivor’
- The Buchala’s grandson accepted the medal on their behalf at the ceremony
Israel on Thursday honoured the Polish couple who hid the controversial Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski from the Nazis as a child.
The late Stefania and Jan Buchala received the Yad Vashem title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ given to those who helped save Jews during World War II from the Nazis and the Holocaust.
‘Despite their very difficult economic situation, the couple agreed to take in the Jewish boy as their own son, and keep him safe,’ Yad Vashem said.
On Thursday, Israel honoured the family – the late Stefania and Jan Buchala – who saved controversial Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski from the Nazis when he was a child
Their grandson accepted the medal at the ceremony in southern Poland which Polanski also attended, calling it ‘a very emotional moment’.
Organisers of the award distanced themsevles from the disgraced director, however, saying that the award was being given to ‘the rescuers, not the survivor’.
The filmmaker lives in France, as he is persona non grata in Hollywood and cannot return to the United States for fear of arrest.
Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in California in 1977 in a plea deal after he was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. He fled the US before sentencing.
The director of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations department, Joel Zisenwine, said ‘the award is given to the rescuers, not the survivor’.
‘It is about what they did in real time, risking their lives to save a nine-year-old child,’ he told AFP new agency.
Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski (left) and Stanislaw Buchala, the grandson of Stefania and Jan Buchala – stand together while attending the Righteous Among the Nations Awards ceremony at the the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance in southern Poland
This undated handout photo made available by the Israeli embassy in Warsaw in October and taken at an unknown location shows Jan and Stefania Buchala with their children. The couple were honoured at a ceremony in Poland on Thursday attended by Roman Polanski
Polanski, pictured left holding a rose in front standing in front of the media and talking to Stanislaw Buchala, lives in France, as he is persona non grata in Hollywood and cannot return to the United States for fear of arrest. Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in California in 1977, but fled the US before sentencing
‘Nobody of course has any way of knowing what happens to people as adults. It has nothing to do with that.’
The controversial film director was just six years old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, triggering the war and forcing the family into the Krakow Ghetto.
After his father smuggled him through the barbed wire and got friends to take him in, Polanski was shuffled around, then sent to the Buchalas.
Devout Catholic peasants with three small children, they gave him shelter for nearly two years in the village of Wysoka, asking for nothing in return.
The now 87-year-old French-Polish director of ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ thanked the late couple at the ceremony, and singled out Stefania as an ‘exceptionally noble person’.
Polanski had tried for years to track down the family – to no avail. Both Buchalas died in 1953 and the village had no news of the children.
Pictured: The medals awarded to the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ displayed on a table during a ceremony for Stefania and Jan Buchala, who hid Polanski from the Nazis
Polanski was pictured in the audience among the attendees, and in a speech thanked the late couple at the ceremony, and singled out Stefania as an ‘exceptionally noble person’
It was only in 2017 that Polanski came face to face with their grandson thanks to some detective work from the filmmakers behind ‘Polanski, Horowitz’.
Due out next year, the documentary by Anna Kokoszka-Romer and Mateusz Kudla recounts the childhood years of Polanski and his lifelong friend and fellow Holocaust survivor, photographer Ryszard Horowitz.
Stanislaw Buchala’s late father Ludwik had talked about growing up with a ‘brother’ who moved to the US after the war. Little did he know that his childhood playmate became filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Director Roman Polanski arrives for the Righteous Among the Nations ceremony to honour a Polish couple who sheltered him from the Nazis during World War Two in Gliwice, Poland
Stanislaw, who is in his 60s, told the filmmakers he was proud of his ‘heroic’ grandparents.
‘People should know, especially now during the pandemic, that a person can do something selfless for another.’
In his testimony to Yad Vashem, Polanski said Stefania Buchala ‘provided me with shelter, risking her own life and that of her family.’
The stakes were high. In occupied Poland, even offering Jews a glass of water was punishable by death.
Poland, which lost six million citizens – half of them Jewish – during the war, has the most ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ of any country, at more than 7,000 individuals.
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