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From NYC to Disneyland: 64 Years Ago the Polish Ravensbruck Rabbits came to the U.S. for an incredible trip.

This year marks the 64th anniversary of the trip Caroline Ferriday helped arrange, bringing the Polish women known as the Ravensbruck Rabbits to America, a trip I uncovered back in 2000 when I started researching my novel Lilac Girls.

The  women arrived at Idlewild Airport (before it was re-named JFK in 1963) at the Pan Am offices (Pan American Airlines funded the airfare for the trip) for their rehabilitative trip to the U.S. Above, Norman Cousins is seated center, front row. Dr. William Hitzig center, rear.

The Polish women arrived in New York, assisted by Caroline Ferriday and Norman Cousins, editor of The Saturday Review. The women, who’d been the subjects of Nazi experimental operations while imprisoned at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp arrived and fanned out across the country, many to major cities near hospitals to receive rehabilitative care. The women stayed with families who’d donated lodging and met up in California at the end of their stay for a Greyhound Bus tour across the U.S.

This photo of the Polish ladies  known as the Ravensbruck Rabbits was taken in California during the trip, thirteen years after their liberation from Ravensbruck. From left rear: Władysława Marczewska, Janina Marczewska–Sterkowicz, Jadwiga Kukiela, Wacława Andrzejak-Gnatowska, Joanna Szydłowska, Maria Karczmarz Łysakowska. Middle row: StanisławaMłodkowska-Bielawska,MariaPietrzak-Skibińska, Stanisława Czajkowska-Bafia,JadwigaDzido-Hassa,WandaKulczykRosiewicz,MariaKuśmierczuk,PelagiaMaćkowska. First row from left to right: Maria Grabowska, Helena Hegier-Rafalska, Czesława Kostecka, Genowefa Kluczek-Kacka, Aka Chojnacka (who lived here in California), Władysława Karolewska-Łapińska, Jadwiga Gisges, Stefania Łotocka, Stefania Sieklucka, Leokadia Kwiecińska


The group tours Yosemite

Touring Knotts Berry Farm in California

The tour started in Palo-Alto, California and took the women through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Tennessee. The first leg of the journey ran along the Pacific Ocean shore by the city of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Then in Los Angeles the women visited Hollywood and Disneyland in Anaheim. In Arizona they saw the Hoover dam and Grand Canyon and in  New Mexico the Lapins visited an Indian reservation.


In Texas they saw Amarillo and Dallas and enjoyed a Neiman Marcus fashion show in their honor. After a stay in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 20, the route ended in Washington DC, where they were introduced at Congress. After that the women flew to New York and then home to Poland.

Cardinal Spellman grants the Ravensbruck Rabbits a private audience.


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