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Israel bestows Righteous Among the Nations award to York Region family at ceremony in Vaughan

Tree, plaque will be placed in Israel in honour of Stanislaw Kolodziejski for aiding Jewish woman during Holocaust
Brian Capitao
March 27, 2023

An award ceremony in Vaughan honoured the life of a hero who survived the Holocaust.

On March 21, Stanislaw Kolodziejski, a Polish man who saved a Jewish woman from the Nazis, was honoured with the Righteous Among the Nations award.

The award recognizes people who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

“Tonight, the name of your esteemed relative joins the name of Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg and other Righteous Among the Nations to become a permanent part of our nation's heritage, to be remembered by our people for generations and generations to come,” said Idit Shamir, consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada.

The Righteous Among the Nations award is bestowed to non-Jewish people by Israel.

“We are accepting the award on behalf of our grandfather, Righteous Among the Nation, for the acts he did in World War Two, to save Jews in the Holocaust, as a Christian man, as a non-Jew,” said Stan Kolodziejski, who is named after his grandfather.

The medal and certificate are the highest honour bestowed by Jewish people, through the State of Israel, on non-Jewish people.

“We have the Order of Canada in Canada, but this is even higher than that to recognize the personal sacrifice and the risk people took to save Jews during the Holocaust,” said Thornhill Coun. Gila Martow.

Canada is home to the fourth largest population of Jewish people in the world. Many of them live in York Region, as the bulk of the population lives within the Greater Toronto Area.

“A lot of the Jews that live in the GTA and specifically in Vaughan and York region are descendants of Polish Jews. (The) Polish had one of the most vibrant Jewish communities for a thousand years, and unfortunately there's very few left today,” explained Martow.

The Kolodziejski family expressed gratitude as they accepted the award on behalf of their father, Adam Mark Kolodziejski, son of Stanislaw, who could not attend the ceremony due to an injury.

“It’s really sort of a testament to how we can come together today because we still face these atrocities today, not just the Jewish people, but many others. And so, it's really important to see that collaboration happen and that our family can be at the centre of it and we can continue to tell his story,” said Eva Kolodziejski, granddaughter of the late Stanislaw Kolodziejski.

The family will be honoured through the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, an organization that teaches Holocaust education and remembrance.

“It takes great courage to do those things and to stand up for human rights. So even the fact that our grandfather could do this because it would have been his life on the line, and he did that selflessly. So, it's really important to us as his descendants, that lives on in us as well,” said Eva Kolodziejski.