Stories of Courage

Stories of Courage

Paulina Kisielewska

Photo Credit: Sonia Folkmann

The Germans had posted announcements in town proclaiming a death sentence on anyone who would aid the Jews. Once, as I was walking along the street, I saw a young girl standing and asking for food, whereby a Polish woman approached her and gave her something to eat. But, at the same moment, I also saw a German coming and he had noticed this. He took out his pistol and shot both the child and the woman. I was horrified by that sight.

The one thing that I remember most is my meeting with Sarah [a Jewess] in that shed. When I entered to feed the chickens and saw her filthy all over with feces–she had escaped via the sewers–I was horrified. This has stuck in my mind the most: seeing her horrified, begging for help, for rescue, since she had escaped the Ghetto and how quickly I ran home to relay what was going on, to relay that Sarah is in the shed. Father knew Sarah prior to the war. He only knew her name–her surname–but he did not know her first name. But, that did not make any difference to him. He said, “Let her stay there until the evening. Bring her water. Let her wash up.” I helped her undress, I helped her wash up, and I took away all the dirty things. So, this is what I remember most clearly, this was something that has stuck in my mind. 

Borivoje and Ljubinka Lelek

Photo credit: Paul Lowe

Before the war, we lived with our neighbors in harmony without any problems. We never had any disagreements or situations that would lead to conflict. We always helped one another, and this is why the war surprised us. We thought that there would be an agreement and that the conflict would be prevented. A Muslim man, from Rogatica, came with his wife and three girls. He had an aunt in the neighborhood, but he was afraid to stay there for the night with his family. They came and asked me, “Can we stay with you?” I said, “Sure, come on in.” I gave them a room, where his wife and children could stay, and they remained indoors for the entire day. All this happened before a house was burned down in the next village. My cousin and I went to the village to see what was happening and saw the army searching for the man who had been staying in my house. They asked his boss, “Where is he?” When I returned home, I said to him, “I’m really sorry, but they are searching for you, so I cannot continue to hide you. I will go with you wherever is necessary, but here it is dangerous, both for you and for me.” When night fell, three men from our village took him and his family through our territory. It was through the Muslim territory, and they escaped to Sarajevo.

Jan Karel Wijnbergen - Amsterdam

Photo Credit: Sonia Folkmann

I was fourteen when I was approached and asked to join the resistance, helping find shelter for Jewish children. They asked me whether I would be interested in and capable of going into the country. I would pick up Jewish children in and outside of Amsterdam and would go with these children by train to certain places of which I had notes and addresses, which I had to remember carefully, because I wasn’t allowed to carry anything on me in a written form.

They told me to wear shorts because we were supposed to be children. We wore a piece of string and a sign that said, “evacuation service,” that way we got by the Nazis in the train station.

Well, I got onto the train with the children. Once in Groningen, I was to walk into the main hall, and chat to the children for a bit. Then someone will approach me who will ask, “Do you have some fire?” Then your answer will be – you’ll have a matchbox with three matches in your pocket – “You want some fire? Here it is.” You give him the matchbox and you immediately add, “Oh, there are only three left. You can keep it.” That man knew exactly what I would say. I handed over the children, gave them a hand, a kiss, a peck, and he took the three children with him. To this day, I don’t know what happened to the children. 

Enoch Rwanburindi - Rwanda

Photo Credit: Riccardo Gangale

Photo Credit: Riccardo Gangale

"Before the genocide, life in the neighborhood was good. Our relationship with the Tutsis was good, too, because we shared everything. We offered cows to one another and even intermarried. Then things changed, and people started persecuting the other ethnic group. But, it was due to the government teaching them to hate. I wasn’t involved in the ethnic hatred, because I was a Christian and I used to mingle with both sides. Plus, I considered all human beings as God’s creations and loved them the same way.

The persecution against the Tutsi became more intense than ever. I asked several of them to come stay with me at my home. These people had been beaten and had injuries, and we would take care of their wounds until they got well. These are the people I sheltered in my house. No one ever came to hurt them anymore.  But, because my house was too small, we decided to build them a house.

Many times the local authorities forced me to appear before the bourgmaster, and every time it happened, my family would lose all hope of seeing me again. But at the end of the day, I would return. My neighbors rushed to advise me to evict the refugees from my home as soon as possible, but I told them, “I know that the only relationship between them and me is that we pray in the same congregation, but I cannot chase God’s people from my house.”

Former Nazi Now Fights Against Racism

A former racist skinhead, TJ began questioning the ethics of the movement and began to speak with younger members in order to convince them to leave the movement. A fierce advocate against hate, TJ has kept his own name despite repeated death threats.

Moral Courage TV tells the stories of people who are fighting corruption in their faith, culture, or workplace. Whether they are standing up to a bully, breaking up a gang, or simply seeking truth, the heroes of our stories refuse to fail.

Irshad Manji, Executive Producer of Moral Courage TV, invites you to discuss and debate on her Facebook page:

Duch Keam

My name is Duch Keam. When I was 17, in 1971, I became a soldier of the Independent Unit of Kamcheay Mear District. One evening, our leader asked, “Who wants to fight?” Even though I had seen a lot of soldiers die, I immediately raised my hand. I did not care much about my life. After the victory in April 1975, my unit moved to defend the border at Trapeang Phlong, on the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. At first, we cleared the forest and transplanted rice. But in late 1977, Pol Pot ordered us to fight the Vietnamese. I did not know why, but I followed orders.


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