Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo
How does one know how brave or courageous they might be in difficult or impossible times? Is there a bravery gene some are born with and others not? Is the instinct to survive so strong as to defy all odds?
Irena Sendler was such a person. During World War II, as the Jews in Warsaw were confined to the ghetto, Irena, a social worker, was given a pass that allowed her to pass to and from the confines of the ghetto. While she was there she soon understood what was happening to the Jews of Europe and became determined to gather what children she could and put them in safe homes.
Of course this wasn’t easy, it was incredibly dangerous because not only was Irena being watched by the Nazis so were her friends and family. But the important thing to her was to get the children to safety. She walked past the guards with infants under her armpits in the folds of her coat, she herded children through sewers, she hid them in coffins, and some, she took right past the guards by declaring them ill and taking them to the hospital. She hid them, then, in homes of friends and acquaintances and within the underground system of safe houses. Somehow she convinced the parents in the ghetto to give their children to her and in doing so she saved over 2,500 children. Most of the parents knew they would never see their children again. But Irena was naïve enough to keep a list of all of the children and their parents so in the end, they could be reunited. She hid this list in a bottle in a garden. Little did she realize that over 90% of the families would no longer exist at the end of the war.
Irena’s army of supporters was in as much danger as she was, and as members of the resistance, many did not survive. Irena did but not without being tortured first.
When I read books like this my thoughts always go to asking myself what I would do. What I could endure. How strong would I be. I always come up short.