During World War II in Przemsyl, Poland, Stefania (known as Fusia to her friends – pronounced “foosha”) and her younger sister Helena hid thirteen Jews in an attic for two years, rescuing them from certain death by the Nazis. A true Holocaust heroine, Fusia said she did not consider herself a hero. She only did what she felt she had to because what the Nazis were doing to people was wrong. Fusia is proof that one person can make a difference, that one thought, one declaration can change the world. Fusia’s actions gave thirteen people the opportunity to have many wonderful children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
One of the rescued, Josef Burzminski (formerly Max Diamant), married Fusia, saying, “She gave me my life, I owe her mine”. Stefi and Joe enjoyed 59 years of marriage until Joe’s death of natural causes in 2003.
Many of those rescued by Fusia came together to recognize her heroism by asking that she be honored as a Righteous Gentile at Yad Vashem in Israel. Fusia’s story has been memorialized in a television movie titled “Hidden in Silence,” in a documentary titled “The Other Side of Faith,” in a segment on the television show “In the Name of Love,“ and in multiple interviews for newspapers, television news and various Holocaust archives. She was a featured guest on “Oprah,” spoke at the dedication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC where she is part of the Rescuers exhibit. Fusia is also the subject of a soon-to-be-released novel for young adults. The house in Poland where Fusia and Helena hid thirteen people is currently being turned into a museum.
The spirit of helping people didn’t end in WWII. An apartment building fire near their home in Boston left dozens of people without a place to stay. Without thinking twice, Stefi and Joe welcomed nine strangers into their home for several weeks.
Fusia’s selflessness came at a high price. For the remainder of her life, she struggled with ever-increasing post-traumatic stress, reliving the war in her mind almost daily. Suffering terrible insomnia and often uncontrollable sobbing, in her mind Fusia was almost constantly “upstairs in the bunker”. Documenting her experience in a memoir may have been her way of purging the demons.
Even while enduring frequent flashbacks, Fusia loved to sing and was gregarious. Her unrelenting post-traumatic stress ultimately led to severe dementia, which thankfully relieved her of her demons. Dementia finally allowed Fusia to experience the long-lost youth she sacrificed, singing, laughing, flirting and finally light-hearted in her old age.
Fusia’s humble yet extraordinary life is being documented in this website. Information and activities related to Fusia and Joe is periodically added to this website.
Media Archives – Television, Interviews, Honors and Tributes
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Living in Boston in 1993, Stefi and Joe were interviewed by local television station WBZ-TV4 prior to their coverage of the opening ceremony of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, where Stefi and Joe spoke.
From the USC Shoah Foundation Stefania Podgorska Burzminski appears at the end of the testimony of her husband, Josef Burzminski (right), to share thoughts on why she risked her life to save him and many others during the Holocaust. Stefania grew up Catholic in...
Documentaries, Honors & Tributes
In 1995, Stefi was recognized in Los Angeles by Women's Day USA and its founder Beata Pozniak, a Polish born screen and television actress. In attendance were Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel, the Consul General of Finland, among others. Beata presented Stefi...
Read aloud at Stefi's funeral, this letter of recognition was presented to Stefi from California State Senator Ben Allen's office. We are truly grateful to him, and to Ms. Beata Pozniak Daniels for facilitating this recognition.
In 1979, Fusia was honored with a "Medal of the Just" by Yad Vashem after several of the Rescued petitioned the organization in Israel to recognize Stefi and her sister Helena for their selflessness, courage and bravery. This event gained international media...
In 1988, the City of Boston and Mayor Ray Flynn presented Stefi with a Proclamation recognizing her act of courage and compassion as "Righteous among the Nations".
Stefi was honored with gratitude by the Anti Defamation League with a plaque commemorating various key events of the Holocaust.
Stefi's son Ed traveled to Przemysl Poland in Spring 2018 where he and his family were welcomed to Primary School #1 (Skola Podstawowa nr 1). Stefi's and her sister Helena's story is taught in history class at this school by their teacher, Monika Lach, as an example...