Irena Sendler, a nurse during the time of the Nazi invasion of Warsaw, Poland saved about 2500 children during the time of the war. Despite the risks and the possibility of being caught and executed by the Nazis, she decided to put her life on the line and save the children.
The motto “Always help the needy” which her father taught to her as a child stuck with her for the rest of her life. Like her father who was one of the most respected doctors in Poland, Irena also chose to serve in the field of medicine. She became a licensed nurse after years of training. Irena then worked in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department near the Warsaw Ghetto, which was one of the worst areas to be in during the World War II if you are Jewish.
During her time at the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, Irena helped the Jewish families. She handed them food, clothes and gave any help that she can give.
She was also introduced to “Zegota“, also knowned as the “Konrad Żegota Committee”, an underground organization or group of Polish people who helped Jewish people during the time of the invasion of the Germans of Poland. They were the one who tried to sneak out and free the young Jewish people who were being sent to the death camps by the Nazis.
Irena, with the help of the Zegota members, snuck out and freed thousands of young Jewish children. As a nurse, Irena was the one who verified the health condition of the children. She also used her skills and license to fool the Nazi soldiers who are guarding the ghetto gates. She even got to the point where she told the guards that the children were already dead just so that she can get their hands off them.
Though some parent do not trust her, Irena convinced them that their children will be safe in her hands. She told them that they will be brought to Catholic homes where the Nazi would not be able to touch them.
Unfortunately, she was caught and then tortured by the Nazis. Thankfully, Irena made some friends over the years and they helped her in sneaking out of the the Nazi-controlled ghetto by bribing one of the Nazi officers. However, Irena’s escape has been bittersweet as her two arms have already been broken because of the interrogations and torture she suffered from her tormentors.
Irena then lived under a fake name in fear that the Nazis would come at her again. But the fearless Irena went back to her hometown near the ghetto area.
She did not reveal any of the names of the Jewish children she saved from the Nazis. But one thing that the German soldiers did not know was that Irena buried her list of the names in her neighbor’s backyard. Irena dug it up after the war was over and reached out to each of the children’s family who are on her list.
Before her passing at the age of 98 years old, Irena had her chance to meet the families and the children that she helped from the war. Irena also stated this before she passed: “The hatred [I had for] the German occupiers was stronger than fear…. My father taught me to reach out to a drowning man, even if you can’t swim. [During that time] it was Poland who was drowning.”
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