Jan Żabiński was an outstanding Polish zoologist, a radio journalist, an author of books, a soldier of the Home Army, and above all, the director of the Warsaw Zoo in years 1928-1954. Before the outbreak of WWII, thanks to his passion and perseverance as well as the commitment of his wife Antonina, the then 10-year-old Warsaw Zoo was admired by whole Europe and eagerly visited by the inhabitants of Warsaw. As a member of the Home Army, Jan was involved in the production of explosives, but he showed even greater heroism during other operations. Despite the thread of death penalty, the Żabiński family helped Jews by hiding them in the basement of their villa and in empty animal cages. In 1965, Jan and Antonina were awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” for their activities. Their villa is open for visitors until today.

Antonina Żabinska spent the first years of her life in Russia where her father, Antoni, worked as a railway engineer. In 1917, as a 9 year-old girl, she lost both of her parents – members of the intelligentsia, who were murdered by the revolutionaries. Antonina fled to Tashkient together with her aunt, who took the young orphaned girl under her care. Later Antonina studied piano at the music conservatory. At the age of 15 Antonina came to Warsaw, where she studied languages as well as drawing and painting. She worked as a tutor, studied archival science, which eventually enabled her to get a job at the Warsaw School of Life Sciences.

Moshe Tirosh, a Jew who survived thanks to hiding in the Warsaw Zoo, and Krzysztof Prochaska, a man whose mother found shelter in the Zoo.

Teresa Żabińska – Jan and Antonina’s daughter.

Animals – voiceless characters in the film; the viewers can see how the animals deal with the cruelty of war (a terrified lion or monkeys watching the Zoo being bombed).

Of animals and Man

The documentary film about Jan and Antonina Żabinski who saved about 300 people, mostly Jews, in the Warsaw Zoo during the WWII