March 28, 2013

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Holocaust survivor Leah Bedzowski Johnson will speak Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. in Trout Auditorium of the Vaughan Literature Building at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is part of the University's observance of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is sponsored by Campus Jewish Life and Bucknell Hillel.

Nazis invaded the town of Lida in the eastern half of Poland on the eve of Johnson's 18th birthday, where she lived with her mother and three younger siblings before her father was killed and they were confined to a ghetto.

The Bedzowskis escaped to the Belarusian forest, where Tuvia Bielski and his brothers were hiding. There, some of the Bielski partisans joined Russian resistance fighters while others built a village in order to protect themselves and about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.

As a member of the Bielski Brigade, Johnson went on food-finding missions and served guard duty. She also met Velvel Yanson, a Jewish partisan from another brigade, who became her husband among fellow partisans in the forest. They emigrated to Canada in 1949 where they raised three children.

Johnson lives in Florida, where she continues to be active in the Jewish community and lectures extensively about her Jewish partisan experience, saying to her young audiences, "Fight for your rights. Know who you are. This is my legacy."

The Bielski partisan group, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website, was one of the most significant Jewish resistance efforts against Nazi Germany during World War II, saving more than 1,200 lives.

The story of the Bielskis was told in a 2008 movie, "Defiance," starring Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, and in a History Channel documentary, "The Bielski Brothers: Jerusalem in the Forest."

Contact: Division of Communications