He had no idea the story she had to tell.
Martha Sharp and her husband, Waitstill, a Unitarian minister, had a secret from World War II. They were recruited to work in Czechoslovakia, where a large community of Unitarians were present under the leadership of Norbert Capek.
To go meant leaving their children, then ages 7 and 2. It also meant taking on lifesaving work rescuing Jews and others being persecuted by the Nazi regime.
"Little did I know that she had rescued hundreds of lives and played this role," Joukowsky said. "Since then ... one of the purposes of my life is to tell this story."
It took 13 years, but Joukowsky succeeded in completing a film about his grandparents' rescue efforts. "Two Who Dared" will air at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Jewish Community Center.
"My children can recite the entire movie word for word," joked Joukowsky, who eventually left his job as vice chairman and senior advisor of Econergy International, a diversified international energy services company, to complete the documentary.
Joukowsky said his grandparents went to Europe twice. They were in Czechoslovakia in March 1939 when Nazi forces neared Prague. The couple worked closely with members of the American Friends Service Committee to advance refugees' visa applications to Great Britain and elsewhere.
"It wasn't one way they worked to rescue people. In fact, when you watch the film, you learn their methods were quite bureaucratic," he said.
Records were later found putting the number helped by the Sharps at 3,500 refugees, said Joukowsky, who lives in Sherborn, Mass. Although hard to confirm accurately since many people changed their names, he said officials believe many of the refugees successfully escaped.
In 2006, the Sharps' names were added to the list of "Righteous Among the Nations," a wall in Israel for Gentiles who risked their own lives in helping as many escape the Holocaust as they could.
The Sharps returned to France and Portugal in 1940 and rescued many Jewish children. In 1943, Martha Sharp founded Children to Palestine, which helped orphaned Jewish youth in Europe to start new lives in Palestine.
Waitstill, who died in 1984, and Martha Sharp divorced after the war. Martha remarried, took the surname Sharp-Cogan, and died in 1999.
"Two Who Dared" clocks in at one hour, 16 minutes. The movie is produced by Matthew Justus, who has been part of the production teams for several Academy Award nominated and Emmy winning films.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York is co-sponsoring the movie.
- JOHN HILTON,
If you go
WHAT: "Two Who Dared"
WHEN: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Jewish Community Center, 2000 Hollywood Drive, York Township
COST: Free, with contributions accepted
DETAILS: Visit www.uucy.org