This is a continuation of the series, Inspiring People Whom I Admire Part IV. I want to create a group of people who have different traits that I admire. Within this imaginary group, I would love to sit down and talk to each one of them. I added the inspirational Kalpana Chawla to this group in my post, Inspiring People Whom I Admire Part III.
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I began researching people from the World War II era. There are a lot of stories of heroic men but the heroic women of World War II are commonly forgotten. I did find stories about a few women and was going to include all of them in one post. Then I ran across a story about Irena Sendler and her story was so compelling that I want to dedicate this post to her memory.
Inspiring People Whom I Admire Part IV – Irena Sendler
She was born Irena Krzyzanowska on 2/15/1910 in Warsaw, Poland, and grew up in the town of Otwock, Poland. When the Nazis invaded Warsaw in 1939, she began feeding and sheltering Jews. After the Warsaw Ghetto was erected in 1940, she could no longer help the Jews that were isolated inside. The Warsaw Ghetto was the size of New York City’s Central Park and 450,000 Jewish people were forced into the area. Irena then began saving orphan children.
In order to enter the Warsaw Ghetto, Irena used papers as a Polish social worker she had gotten from a member of Zegota. Zegota was a Polish underground group that assisted Jewish people. Additionally, She also had papers from a worker of the Contagious Disease Department.
Irena and helpers made over 3000 false documents to help Jewish families before she joined Zegota. After joining, She eventually became in charge of the children’s division of Zegota. During the Nazi occupation, she rescued 2500 Jewish children in Poland. She made sure that every family she placed a child with, had to agree that they would return the child to their family after the war.
Irena and 10 others would enter the Warsaw Ghetto and smuggle out children using the following methods:
1. Using an ambulance and hiding a child underneath the stretcher.
2. Escaping through the Courthouse.
3. Using sewer pipes or other secret underground passages.
4. A trolley could carry a child in a sack, trunk, or suitcase.
5. They would have the child pretend to be sick or sometimes would actually be sick and it was legal to remove them via ambulance.
Sentenced To Death
Irena was arrested on October 20, 1943. She was taken to the notorious Piawiak Prison where she was questioned and tortured. Consequently, her legs and feet were fractured during these torture sessions. The Nazis sentenced her to death and she was to be shot.
Unbeknownst to her, Zegota had bribed the German executioner who helped her escape. After she escaped, the Germans loudly proclaimed her execution and put up posters all around Warsaw stating that she had been shot. Irena actually saw and read the posters. For the remainder of the war, she remained hidden.
Finding The Children
Irena was the only one who knew the location of the children she had saved. She had written down their names and locations on tissue paper and buried them in jars. After the war, she located and dug up each one. Afterward, she began the arduous task of finding the children and locating a living parent. Unfortunately, almost all the parents died while being interned at the Treblinka death camp.
Life In A Jar
In 1999, four students began looking for information on Irena Sendler as a National History Day Project. They wrote a play titled, “Life in a Jar,” and began performing it wherever they could. From this play sprung, “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” to get the word out of her heroic efforts. Her story was virtually unknown worldwide until they started performing the play. Even in her own country of Poland communism had buried her story.
On May 12, 2008, Irena Sendler died at the age of 98 in Warsaw Poland. Many of the children she rescued continue to tell her story. Her story was immortalized in the book, “Life in a Jar” by Jack Mayer. The book has been made into a film and the play continues to be performed today. There is even an Irena Sendler Exhibit in Fort Scott, Kansas. You can find more information on irenasendler.org.
A Special Person
I am always moved by these courageous actions of people who lived during times of adversity. Their bravery and unselfish deeds by willingly risking their lives to save others are admirable. Irena Sendler was a special person.
Irena Sendler is an inspirational person. We should all have her bravery and compassion for others. I hope you enjoyed reading Inspiring People Whom I Admire – Part IV as much as I did writing it. If you did, click the like button. Leave a comment below, I love reading your comments. If you would like to join my team, click the subscribe button above and leave your email address. Don’t forget to follow my blog.
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“Facts about Irena.” Life in a Jar, 14 Jan. 2020, irenasendler.org/facts-about-irena/.