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Two Holocaust survivors give thanks for lives, each other

After surviving the Holocaust, immigrating to Canada and raising a large family, Sara Marmurek said she has always appreciated the ideals of Thanksgiving, but this year was more special for her.

The 88-year-old Polish great grandmother was reunited with the man responsible for saving her life during World War II last week at John F. Kennedy International Airport for the first time in 66 years.

Marmurek, joined on Nov. 23 by her daughter and the son of another survivor who died of natural causes, was in tears as Dr. Wladyslaw Misiuna came to greet her at the airport’s press room.

“This is a great Thanksgiving for me because I never believed I’d see Mr. Misiuna,” she said.

Misiuna, 85, who still lives in Poland and taught at a Polish University following the war, was also emotional as he hugged Marmurek, whom he still calls Susha. He was grateful that he was able to see her again.

“It’s a huge joy. It is a huge satisfaction,” he said through a translator.

The old friends, who were reunited by the non-profit group the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, reminisced about their days in war-torn Poland and how they helped each other to survive.

In June 1943 Marmurek was working as a slave laborer along with other Jews at the Szkolna camp and she met Misiuna, who was 19 at the time and working at a rabbit farm near the factory. Misiuna, who is a Catholic, was appalled by the conditions the women encountered and invited Marmurek and others to help him out on the farm.

While they worked together, the Polish teen fed the camp’s slaves and provided them with medicine and clothing.

“I acted as a human who was able to help,” Misiuna said.

Although the food and supplies went a long way toward combatting the harsh conditions she and her fellow Jews were facing, Marmurek said the greatest gift Misiuna gave her was hope.

“He always said you have to overcome. You have the will to survive,” she recalled.

Misiuna said he was constantly amazed by her resilience and upbeat attitude while they worked on the fields.

“Despite the times that were difficult, she was always happy and always smiling,” he recalled.

After the Szkolna camp was liquidated on July 25, 1944, Marmurek and the others who were in Misiuna’s care were sent to Auschwitz where they stayed for three months before being transferred to another slave labor camp in Poland. She and the other Szkolna workers all survived the Holocaust.

Misiuna, however, was less fortunate. Following Szkolna’s liquidation, he was arrested and tortured by the Nazis for helping Jews.

They sentenced him to death, but Misiuna escaped from a Nazi prison and went into hiding until the end of the war. He still suffers long-term pain from the weeks of torture and needs a cane to walk.

Although Marmurek kept in touch with her rescuer through letters, they were never able to meet face-to-face until last week. The pair and their families spend the holiday at the Long Island home of Akiva Mitzmacher, the son of Rachela Micmacher, another one of the Szkolna girls whom Misiuna took under his wing.

Mitzmacher said his mother, who died in 1997, always spoke highly of the professor and he always wanted to personally thank him for saving his family.

“Life prevails and we are strong,” he told the rescuer.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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