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
Fusia was asked to speak at the opening dedication ceremony of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. Fusia and Joe had one of the greatest privileges of their lives meeting the President and First Lady of the United States. Fusia’s and...read more
Hidden in Silence is a made for television movie about Fusia and Max’s (Joe’s) experience. Produced by Denise Alexander and directed by Richard Colla. Kellie Martin plays Fusia, Tom Radcliffe plays Max. Because of copyrights, the video is available on...read more
Ms. Susan Petit, at the time the publisher of Los Angeles Lawyer magazine, a legal publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and one of Ed Burzminski’s business clients, was so taken by Stefi’s story that she contacted a friend of hers at...read more
Fusia and Joe were featured guests on the “Oprah...read more
Fusia’s oral history video interview for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Interviewed by Gay Block and Malka Drucker in 1988. See...read more
An article in the August, 1994 edition of Reader’s Digest titled “Stefania’s Choice”. Reproduced with permission from Reader’s Digest. Read...read more
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...read more
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...read more
Stefi provides her oral history in 1989 to the United States Holocaust Museum. This is a series of three long, unedited videos for research. View...read more
At the United States Holocaust Memorial Dedication in Washington DC in 1993, Stefi and Joe were interviewed for Polish television. This video is in...read more
Documentaries, Honors & Tributes
“The Other Side of Faith” is a documentary produced by Mr. Sy Rotter about Fusia and Max’s experience during the War. Mr. Rotter pulled together a team and traveled with Stefi and Joe to Przemysl to film the documentary. This was the first time...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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...read more
Stefi was honored with gratitude by the Anti Defamation League with a plaque commemorating various key events of the...read more
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...read more