If your neighbors were being hunted down and came to your door begging for help, would you risk your life to save theirs?
This film tells the remarkable, yet little-known, story of Francisca Halamajowa, a Polish-Catholic woman who rescued 16 of her Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust, while cleverly passing herself off as a Nazi sympathizer.
On the eve of World War II, more than 6,000 Jews lived in Sokal, a small town in Eastern Poland, now part of Ukraine. By the end of the war, only about 30 had survived, half of them rescued by Halamajowa. For close to two years, she hid her Jewish neighbors in her tiny home and cooked and cared for them, right under the noses of German troops camped on her property as well as hostile neighbors. Two families were hidden in the hayloft of her pigsty, and one family in a hole dug under her kitchen floor. In the final months of the war, she also provided shelter to a German.
Even among the small minority of Poles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, Halamajowa’s is by all accounts an unusual story, considering the number of people she rescued and the amount of time she fed and cared for them.
The film draws on excerpts from a diary kept by one of the survivors, Moshe Maltz, whose granddaughter is one of the filmmakers. It also incorporates testimonies from other Jews saved by Halamajowa, her descendants and formers neighbors, as they reconnect on a trip back to Sokal. Powerful location shots add another rich dimension to the story, providing the backdrop as the drama unfolds.