She was born in Warsaw, Poland, February 15, 1910. Her name was Irena Sendler and her mission was to help those in need. It was one of the many important lessons her father gave her while growing up.
Sadly, the lessons would stop short when she was only 7, as her father passed away from typhus. Still, she found herself using the lessons he gave and even following in his footsteps. She ended up becoming a nurse, since her father was a doctor. The Warsaw Department of Social Welfare was where she worked. They offered up food and clothing to the families that were in need. She was a devout Catholic and while Europe was very anti-Semitic, she simply refused to buy into the prejudice, and instead would always help out Jewish families, the same as any other family.
It would be in 1939, after World War II, when the Nazis created the Warsaw Ghetto. This was where the Jewish families were interned, and where the unthinkable horror would begin.
The living conditions were horrible. Irena was stunned and ended up joining the Zegota (Council for the Aid of Jews). Things would then get worse, and this meant Irene would have to risk her life in order to help those in need.
The idea was to help Jewish children escape from the Ghetto. They would end up dead if they remained. Foster families or orphanages would take them in once they were outside of the Ghetto.
Not all Jewish mothers were into simply leaving their kids with total strangers. And they simply did not know that things would end up becoming far worse, as many of these families would end up being taken to the death camps and dying.
Naturally the Nazis controlled the Ghetto and getting kids out was also an extreme challenge. It seemed the only way out was to be put in ambulances with very ill patients who needed to be moved to other hospitals.
Then surveillance increased more, and Irena had to hide the kids in sacks and garbage bags. Even coffins! One child, Elzunia, was put in a wooden box that had a shipment of bricks in it. She was only five months old and she left with a silver spoon hidden in her clothes. The only family memento.
More than 2,500 children were saved. A record of all of them kept, hidden in jars and placed in a neighbor’s garden.
But eventually the Nazi’s caught on. They stopped Irena, and sent her to prison for what she had been doing. There she was tortured, brutally. Intense pain and suffering couldn’t cause her to give up information on where all the children were now. The Nazis gave up. So they then condemned her to death.
The nurses supporters then did something amazing. They bribed a soldier, who would end up helping her escape. She would indeed escape, and for the years to follow she lived under a phony identity, yet still continued to find ways to help others in need.
The war ended and Irena would dig up all the jars that contained the records of all the children. She gave it to
The Surviving Jews Rescue Committee. Irena would end up marrying and having 3 kids of her own. She had a good life, and had the following to say about her courageous efforts:
“The reason I rescued the children has its origin in my home, in my childhood. I was educated in the belief that a helpless person should be helped from the heart, without looking at his religion or nationality,” Irena said.
She would end up becoming nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. She died one year later, at 98. Amazing how this woman risked her life to rescue 2,500 children, all of whom would have most likely been killed. An incredible individual and definitely a source of inspiration and a role model for so many. Share this amazing woman with friends and family!