Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Irena Sendler


*image taken from http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/sendler/

We likely are all familiar with Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler, and perhaps Corrie Ten Boom and their lives during WW2. We've read of Anne's life in hiding and her untimely death at age 15 in spite of the great hope she carried. We may have seen the film showing how Schindler saved the lives of many Jews by employing them in his factory. Corrie Ten Boom, along with her widower father and her sister, hid Jews in their home in the Netherlands and were arrested and sent to the death camps as a result. Corrie alone survived. These people displayed courage I wonder if any of us can begin to fathom. They are heroes.

Yesterday morning the world lost another true hero. Irena Sendler was 98 years old, confined to a wheelchair, and would be the last person to call herself a hero. In fact, it is said the designation irritated her greatly as she was plagued by guilt at feeling she had left so much undone.

She was a Polish health care worker who first joined the Nazi resistance and later was responsible for smuggling 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto. She found foster homes for each of these children and managed to provide them with false identification documents bearing new identities so the Germans would not suspect the children. Infants and toddlers were simply given new names, but older children had to be coached to remember their new identities and false family histories so they could maintain the ruse that would save their lives. She alone kept track of the true identities of the children encoded, placed in jars, and buried in her back yard so after the war children could be reunited with their families. Sadly, most of those families perished but there was some comfort, for both Irena and the children, in being able to provide the information to those who had been too young to remember their true name and family background.

Her efforts were discovered after a fellow member of the resistance gave Irena's name under torture. In October 1943 she was arrested by the Gestapo. She suffered torture including the breaking of her legs and feet and was sentenced to death. She still refused to give any information which would endanger either the children or other resistance members. Later the Communist leaders of Poland threatened her with denying access to higher education for her own children.

She has left this world and we are poorer for her absence. May she rest in peace and find great reward. May the rest of us be strengthened by her example.


*image taken from http://www.haaretz.com

26 comments:

Phain said...

the heros of yesterday are soon leaving this earth. I wish the heros of today would stand and make themselves known.

G-Man said...

True hero's NEVER admit or claim to be great!!

I read of her death as well today...she was 98, time to go if you are not in good health.

Excellent post Michelle!
xox

Bunny said...

What a wonderful woman. May her name be a blessing.

furiousBall said...

sad loss, a great person

KFarmer said...

What a story and one I've never heard; indeed, a remarkable woman. Thanks for opening my eyes and heart to another wonderful woman in history.

snowelf said...

Now she's good people.
And doesn't she just have the sweetest face!!

--snow

p.s. Congrats to the limelets for their awards over at Galen's. :D

Kathryn said...

So many amazing people in this world whose stories go unheard. I'm so glad you told us of another one. Thank you!
A true hero, indeed!

Sheri said...

She does have the sweetest face ever! What a brave and courageous woman. Her life story is fascinating to me. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2007 (although it was suppoised to be kept secret) but alas, Al Gore was more deserving I guess.

witnessing am i said...

I did not know of Irene before today, but feel a glimmer of hopel in knowing that greatness of this kind exists in this world. I hope it does not die with Irene's passing

In a very small way, passing along her story is a noble act. Thank you for that.

NYD said...

One may never know the depth of ones corage until it be tested by circumstance, as the bear does not realize it's strength before it is set upon by the lion.

I hope I never have the opportunity to fight such injustice and inhumanity.

EmBee said...

Thanks for sharing this piece of history. There seem so few REAL heroes in this day and age.

coopernicus said...

Everyone wonders where all today's heroes are...or that it takes a cataclysmic event for heroes to show themselves...yet there are so many ways we all can be heroes today. Right now. It doesn't take world shaking actions. I believe there are so many heroes in the world today with each small thing that is done. I think of the nurses comforting terminally ill patients, the children fighting cancer, the doctors and nurses helping those children, the person who walks down the street and hands food to a homeless person, the people who work and food pantries and soup kitchens, the volunteers who sit on crisis helplines...the list of heroes is endless...
Yes, the Sendler's and Frank's and Mother Theresa's of the world are God sent angels (I could make an argument for a second, third, fourth coming of Christ but that's another story)...but it doesn't take much for all of us to be a hero in some small way....just look around you...

The Intracerebral Itinerary said...

This incredible woman's name is now immortalized in history and by those who will forever be grateful to her.

to Phain and Embee, et al- there is one modern- day hero I can think of- Paul Rusesabagina (Hotel Rwanda). I actually got to meet him and got a book signed!
His courage and that of Irena Sendler is rare indeed.

S said...

What a cool chick!

Suldog said...

God bless Irena Sendler! And you, too, Lime. I had never heard of her before now. People like her are such a shining example for the rest of us.

When I have a little problem, to remember what some wonderful humans have gone through and still came out of with their humanity intact? I am stronger for their strength. Would that I might remember such people more often.

Mona said...

What a wonderful person!

May God Rest her soul in Peace!

LIME, Its Jillie's birthday today. Please come to my blog to wish her!

Chucka Stone Designs said...

She has the kindest eyes and happiest smile I have ever seen. A sad day indeed. Thanks for sharing her story!

mssolitaire said...

what an incredible woman! thank you for sharing her story!

Craver Vii said...

"These people displayed courage I wonder if any of us can begin to fathom."

You're right; from where most of us stand (in relative comfort), it's hardly possible to wrap our imaginations around that kind of history and have a heartfelt knowledge that it wasn't an ethereal story, but a real, true-to-life, flesh and blood person like you or me. That's why biographies are great. They give details that help us reach into these half-dream texts from history books and piece together the details that give us handles to grasp the reality of it all. God bless people who are brave enough to do what is right.

Fred said...

In my world history class, I'm on WWII. I read about this and mentioned it today. But, with your permission, I'd like to quote some of what you wrote.

And to think some in this world deny the Holocaust ever occurred.

I visited the Dachau concentration camp three years ago. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Breazy said...

This is true heroism! In today's time any small accomplishment is considered heroism by many.

Thanks for sharing this, I had not heard about her death.

Have a good day!

~Tim said...

Thanks for posting this.

airplanejayne said...

thanks Lime. Wonderful tribute to a outstanding human being.

My students and I were talking about heroes, and I shared one of my favorite definitions with them:
A hero is an ordinary person who performs an ordinary task under extraordinary circumstances.

tsduff said...

Thank you so much for this story. I hadn't heard of her life. I'm glad she made it through her adversities - managing to help and inspire so many along the way.

citizen of the world said...

That's a wonderful story and I'm glad you posted it.

javajazz said...

what a beautiful humble woman...