This elderly lady is called Irena Sendler. Few people had ever heard of her until 2007 when she was put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Irena was born in Warsaw in 1910. Her father taught her to do many things, but the most important lesson she ever learned was how to help those in need. We are proud and inspired to tell you her incredible story.
Irena was seven years old when her father died. Despite this, he had a huge influence on her life, and she followed in his footsteps. When she grew up, she became a nurse responsible for helping to provide food and clothes to families in need. At a time when anti-Semitism was on the rise all over Europe, Irena continued to help Jewish families just as she would any other.
When Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939, all Jewish families were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. It’s difficult now to imagine the horror of that time. Irena, shaken by the unbearable conditions in the ghetto, decided to join an organization that provided help to the Jews. As the situation got steadily worse, she realized that she would have to take radical steps to help, even if this meant risking her own life.
Along with several others, Irena began to help Jewish children escape from the ghetto, where they would undoubtedly have died had they stayed. They were sent to shelters or adopted. Although Irena was acting with decent intentions, not all women in the ghetto were prepared to surrender their offspring to a stranger. At that time, no one knew that the situation would become ever more dangerous and that the majority of Jews would end up in concentration camps.
Because the Germans kept the ghetto under strict guard, Irena had to use various tricks to get the children out. Most often, she hid them in ambulances carrying heavily ill patients, but when surveillance increased she had to hide them in sacks, trash cans, and even coffins.
Irena managed to save more than 2,500 children from certain death. She kept all the information about their whereabouts in a tin can that she hid in a neighboring garden.
Her methods worked perfectly until the Germans one day discovered what was going on. Irena was sent to prison and tortured. Despite the unbearable pain and humiliation, she never gave away the information about the children’s whereabouts. In the end, the Nazis gave up trying to find out and sentenced her to death. But fate had different plans. Someone bribed a soldier to give her the chance to escape. From that moment on and until her death, she lived under a false name, but she never stopped trying to help others.
After the war, Irena dug up the tin can containing the notes about the children and passed it on to a government committee that sought to locate Jews who had survived. She got married, had three children, and lived a happy life in the knowledge that she had done what was right. “The reason I saved those children has its roots in my own childhood,“ said Irena. ”I was raised to believe that we must help those in need, regardless of their nationality or faith.»
In 2007, Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and a year later — at the age of 98 — she passed away. She had taken part in the struggle for justice, and her contribution to history can never be underestimated.
This lady with a heart of gold proved to the whole world that anyone can be courageous and stand up for their values even in the most difficult times.