Let me tell you the story of Irena Sendler. It’s a name that I didn’t even know until a few weeks ago, but once I heard her story, I will never forget her. Irena was born in 1910 just outside of Warsaw. By 1940 she had become an administrator in Warsaw’s welfare department as Hitler occupied Poland. Well, the Nazis, if you remember right, they took half a million Jews and they shoved them in the ghetto and then they cut off all the basic health services, even food. Now Irena was responsible for controlling tuberculosis in the area so she could go wherever she wanted without any restriction and she used that freedom to convince Jewish parents to let her hide their children. Imagine the scene, “Please let me take your children.” This woman worked so hard to rescue the children of the ghetto. Sometimes she carried them in a burlap sack or she would put them in a casket to elude the Nazi guard. She would put them in an ambulance right next to her in the back seat and her dog she trained to constantly bark when she was questioned so the Nazis couldn’t hear cries of the children in the sack or the coffin, they’d just hear the dog.
Sendler then gave the children all new names and documents and she placed them with Christian families. But she didn’t want their original identities to die so she wrote down their real names and buried them, underground in a jar, in her backyard, by an apple tree. Eventually she was caught by the Gestapo, she was brutally tortured, they broke her feet and her legs with wooden clubs, just beat her and beat her. She was then scheduled to be executed but she escaped by bribing a guard and she lived in secret until the war was finally over. Once she was free the first thing she did was dig up that jar next to that apple tree. She attempted to put the lives of the rescued children back together. Unfortunately, most of the parents were killed but she placed many with relatives.
Irena Sendler: she wound up rescuing 2,500 Jewish children from certain death at the hands of the Nazis. She lived the past few years, what an amazing woman, at a nursing home. She was actually cared for by a woman that she had smuggled out of the ghetto when she was only 6 months old. Irena had carried her in a toolbox with the dog barking at her feet.
In 2007, Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She lost to Al Gore and his movie about climate change. A year later, she died and it is despicable that she did so without winning the Peace Prize but I’m sure if you asked Irena she would be worrying about other things and right now, today, she is reaping her real rewards and they are far more substantial.
Near the end of her life, Irena said, “Heroes do extraordinary things. What I did was not an extraordinary thing. It was normal.” She carried a small note in her pocket that read, “Jesus, I trust in Thee.”
Irena Sendler – an unsung hero.