We now know the names of the Virtus et Fraternitas Medal recipients - Instytut Pileckiego

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We now know the names of the Virtus et Fraternitas Medal recipients

On 20 December 2022, at the Belweder Palace in Warsaw, we honored Ilona Andrássy, Trofim Daneliuk and the Skakalski family, who demonstrated courage and solidarity with the persecuted when Poland was attacked by two murderous regimes, and the Polish citizens were in grave danger.

Thanks to the efforts undertaken by the Pilecki Institute, we now learn about these brave and kind people, incorporating this knowledge into our common national memory.

During the ceremony held at the Belweder Palace, Minister Wojciech Kolarski presented the medals on behalf of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda. The medal for Ilona Andrássy de Csíkszentkirály et Krasznahorka was collected by Dr Kristóf Erdős from the Hungarian Committee of National Remembrance. On behalf of Trofim Daneliuk, the medal was received by Halina Daneliuk, the wife of his great-grandson. The family of Musiy and Hanna Skakalski was represented by their grandson Volodymyr Samchuk, son of Zinaida.

The representatives of the families of medal recipients and the survivors whom they helped were greeted by Prof. Magdalena Gawin, who thanked them, commenting also on the ongoing situation in Ukraine:

“Help is always needed when a military conflict breaks out. Today we are witnessing a horrific war in Ukraine invaded by Russia. We were trying to help from the very beginning and we will continue to do so. We stand with you, we stand with Ukraine.”

Minister Wojciech Kolarski read out a letter from President Andrzej Duda, highlighting the fact that Poland shared its experience of facing two totalitarian regimes with other European nations.

“The tragic and painful past should serve as a warning and an inspiration to build a future in which evil will not spread or dominate. Unfortunately, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war (…) are a painful reminder of how much work we still have ahead of us before an order based on international law and fundamental values could prevail,” he added.

The President also expressed gratitude to the recipients of the medal for aiding Polish citizens persecuted by totalitarian regimes.

The Marshal of the Polish Parliament Elżbieta Witek addressed the participants of the ceremony via a letter read out by MP Paweł Lisiecki, stressing that “no words can express our gratitude for the life-saving aid provided to Polish citizens.”

Ms. Maria Król expressed thanks on behalf of the survivors, Mr. Kristóf Erdős and Mr. Volodymir Samchuk – on behalf of the recipients of the medal. Mr. Samchuk expressed joy at the bestowal of the medal and gratitude for the aid provided by Poland to Ukraine in connection with the ongoing war.

About the idea

The Virtus et Fraternitas Medal is a token of commemoration and gratitude to persons who provided aid and assistance to Polish victims, provided food and shelter, issued falsified documents, campaigned for better conditions in refugee camps and documented the events of the war. The Director of the Pilecki Institute, having first obtained a positive opinion from the Council of Memory, submits a motion to the President of the Republic of Poland for bestowal of the medal. Since 2019, 46 individuals have been honored – citizens of various countries all over the world. Today this group is joined by three new members. The fate of each recipient of the medal is a separate story, and all of them are connected by an authentic and selfless desire to help others.

The Virtus et Fraternitas Medal was designed by Anna Wątróbska-Wdowiarska. The rim of the medal is adorned with a quotation from John Paul II: The measure of a man is his heart.

Below you can find the information about the medal recipients.

Trofim DanieTrofim Danieluk in the Imperial Russian Army uniform, ca. 1915 (Private archives of the Danieluk family)

“He did not turn us in” – the story of Trofim Daneliuk

The village of Czerniejów in the Volhynia region was inhabited mainly by Ukrainians, but there were also several Polish and mixed families. On 6 August 1943, Banderites attacked the village, murdering Wiktoria Zubkiewicz and her daughters, Genowefa and Maria, among others. Wiktoria’s husband, Feliks Zubkiewicz, was seriously injured, but he managed to escape and survive, also thanks to the help from Rev. Jan Jelinek. Wiktoria and Feliks’ only son Władysław spent the night together with his wife and children at their neighbors’ house. When they were on their way back the following day, they heard shots and decided to hide in the field. The Banderites organized a search for Władysław. They asked Trofim Daneliuk, who lived nearby, about Władysław’s whereabouts, but the Ukrainian did not turn Zubkiewicz in. He lied to the Ukrainian nationalists, saying that the Pole had been away from home for the last three days.

“Upon realizing the danger I was in, I fled and hid among potato shoots. I owe my life to Trofim Daneliuk, who said I hadn’t been home for the last three days, when asked by the murderers from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army” – reported Władysław Zubkiewicz.

Trofim Daneliuk saved the Zubkiewiczs’ lives. That morning in Czerniejów, the Ukrainian nationalists killed fifteen other Poles in addition to several members of the Zubkiewicz family. After the war, Trofim, his wife Agrypina and their five children had a farm in Czerniejów, where Trofim passed away around 1950. The Zubkiewiczs moved to Chełm and their children started their own families.

“Władysław Zubkiewicz received help from Ukrainian neighbors […], among others, Trofim Daneliuk. This is yet more proof that nations and religions do not kill. Only man commits murder, so it is man who should take the blame” – Jan Jelinek, in: Sąsiedzi krwawego Wołynia.


Ilona Andrássy in Red Cross uniform SNM – Betliar Museum, Krásna Hôrka Castle, from the collection of the Andrássy family

“She did not leave us alone” – the story of Ilona Andrássy de Csíkszentkirály et Krasznahorka

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Ilona Andrássy – the daughter of a Polish countess, Maria Chołoniewska, and a Hungarian count, Manó Andrássy – working together with other  aristocrats, established the Hungarian-Polish Refugee Welfare Committee in Budapest. From the very first days of the war up until March 1944, the Committee offered assistance to Poles who arrived in Hungary in search of shelter from the aggression of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Ilona Andrássy headed the Placement and Accommodation Section of the Committee. Thanks to its actions, approx. 10,000 Polish refugees found safe haven before the end of 1939. Countess Andrássy often visited camps for Poles, providing them with food, clothes and money. She also helped Polish soldiers secretly evacuate to Yugoslavia. As part of this operation, approx. 45,000 people left Hungary in the years 1940–41. In 1942, she was appointed head nurse at the Budapest Emergency Surgical Hospital, and in 1944 she took care of orphaned children and supervised children’s homes which were placed under the protection of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

After the war, Ilona Andrássy suffered repression form the Communist authorities. She was expropriated from her estate and resettled from Budapest to Hortobágy, where she worked at a farm. In 1961, she was sentenced to four years of imprisonment for alleged espionage for the West. After release from prison, she worked until her death as a senior laboratory assistant at an orthopedic clinic in Budapest.

 “As a twenty-something woman, she provided assistance to tens of thousands of Poles who had fled to Hungary. Joining the clandestine evacuation operation, she showed incredible courage. Together with other Hungarians, she aided Polish refugees to cross the green border into Yugoslavia, thus secretly helping the Polish emigration.” – Dr. Kristóf Erdős from the Committee of National Remembrance in Hungary.

Thanks to the bestowal of the Virtus et Fraternitas Medal, Ilona Andrássy and other women who worked in the Hungarian-Polish Refugee Welfare Committee can be restored to collective memory both in Poland and Hungary.


Musij Skakalski, Hanna Skakalska, Hanna Skakalska, Zinaida Samczuk z d. Skakalska (Private archives of the Król and Samczuk family)

“They supported us at a difficult time” – the story of Musiy Skakalski, Hanna Skakalska, Hanna Skakalska, and Zinaida Samchuk née Skakalska

The Skakalski family lived in Krzemieniec, Volhynia. Before the war, Musiy served in the Polish army and then worked as a telegraphist at the post office. His wife Hanna kept the home with the help of their 13-year-old daughter Zinaida and Musiy’s older sister, also named Hanna. After the Soviets entered Krzemieniec in 1939, the Skakalskis took in Maria Pietroniec and her sister Janina Paulus with her four-year-old daughter Alicja. The Skakalskis gave the Polish women shelter and food, and saved them from deportation to Siberia and from Ukrainian nationalists. The two families knew each other – Musiy’s sister had been Alicja’s nanny. In 1943, Musiy received warning that hiding Polish neighbors would be met with a hostile reaction from members of the OUN-UPA. As a consequence, the family under the Skakalskis’ protection had to leave their home. Musiy helped the women arrange escape via train from Krzemieniec to the General Government. He then sent the Polish women their belongings. After the war, the families kept in touch and managed to meet again in 1965.

“We lived on the hill near the forest, and the Skakalskis lived at Szeroka Street, near the center. We would visit each other. The Russians came, so we expected to be deported to Siberia. Then the Germans came. During the German occupation rumors started going around that Ukrainian butchers were killing Poles. The Skakalskis decided to take our family in. That’s when the help began.” – recorded with the rescued Alicja Gienc née Paulus, Archive of the Pilecki Institute, IP/DF/SE/1464; Pojednanie przez trudną pamięć. Galicja Wschodnia, ed. A. Zińczuk, Lublin–Drohobycz–Lwów–Warszawa 2014, p. 54.

Survivors and their helpers. Sitting from the left: Janina Paulus, Alicja Paulus, Hanna Skakalska, Maria Pietroniec. Standing first from the right is Zinaida Samchuk (Private archives of the Król family)
The Skakalski family house in Krzemieniec, where Maria Pietroniec and Janina Paulus with her four-year-old daughter Alicja found shelter (Private archives of the Król family)
The Skakalski and Samchuk families. Standing: Volodymyr and Zinaida Samchuk; sitting: Musiy, his sister Hanna and his wife Hanna with grandsons Volodymyr and Yaroslav (Private archives of the Samchuk family)
The rescued Alicja Gienc née Paulus, 2021 (Private archives of the Samchuk family)

***

The obverse of the medal presents the white eagle from the Polish national emblem, below which are two crossed palm branches, symbolizing reward and recognition. The reverse contains the figure of a woman holding the stylized spear of St. Maurice — the oldest Polish state insignia, and a laurel wreath, the symbol of victory. This figure, which personifies Poland, is surrounded by luminous ornamentations resembling angels’ wings. The rim of the medal is adorned with a quotation from John Paul II: The measure of a man is his heart. The medal has been designed by Anna Wątróbska-Wdowiarska.

See also

  • Virtus et Franternitas Medals presented

    Virtus et Franternitas Medals presented

    The third edition of the Virtus et Fraternitas Medal Gala took place on 15 June 2022. This time, at the request of the Director of the Pilecki Institute, the President of the Republic of Poland bestowed medals on a total of 23 people.

  • The Virtus et Fraternitas Gala 2021. Meet all the recipients!

    The Virtus et Fraternitas Gala 2021. Meet all the recipients!

    The President of Poland Andrzej Duda awarded the medals to foreigners who provided aid to Polish citizens during the 20th century, in times of both war and peace.

  • Walenty Jabłoński, doctor and an exile in Siberia, is dead

    Walenty Jabłoński, doctor and an exile in Siberia, is dead

    We are sad to learn of the death of Walenty Jabłoński, an exile in Siberia, participant of the Union of Siberian Exiles in Białystok. He was deported to a kolkhoz in Kazakhstan in 1952, where he was saved from starvation and death by Tassybaj Abdikarimow.

  • Virtus et Fraternitas Medal

    Virtus et Fraternitas Medal

    The Virtus et Fraternitas Medal is a token of gratitude of the Republic of Poland for rescuing its citizens in times of the country’s greatest distress.

  • The President of the Republic of Poland decorates recipients with the Virtus et Fraternitas Medal

    The President of the Republic of Poland decorates recipients with the Virtus et Fraternitas Medal

    The Virtus et Fraternitas Medal has been bestowed for the first time in history in June 2019. The awards were given by the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, acting on a motion of the Pilecki Institute.