Irena Sendler was a Polish Roman Catholic nurse and social worker who served in the Polish resistance movement during World War II. As early as 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, Sendler began aiding Jews, and along with her helpers created more than 3000 false documents to help Jewish families. Helping Jews in German-occupied Poland meant all household members risked death if they were found to be hiding Jews, a punishment far more severe than in other occupied European countries.
She was eventually placed in charge of the children’s section of Żegota, an underground resistance organisation in German-occupied Warsaw. Assisted by some two-dozen other Żegota members, Sendler smuggled some 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and then provided them with false identity documents and with housing outside the Ghetto, saving those children during the Holocaust. In 1943, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo, severely tortured, and sentenced to death. Żegota saved her by bribing German guards on the way to her execution.
Irena Sendler, along with so many others in her time, was prepared to put her own life at risk in order to provide life to others. That is always extraordinary!
In 1965, Sendler was recognised by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations. Late in life she was awarded Poland’s highest honour for her wartime humanitarian efforts. She appears on a silver 2009 Polish commemorative coin honouring some of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations.
Irena Sendler. [Photo courtesy: Wikipedia]
When asked about her achievements, Sendler said, “Heroes do extraordinary things. What I did was not an extraordinary thing. It was normal.” I disagree! Irena Sendler, along with so many others in her time, was prepared to put her own life at risk in order to provide life to others. That is always extraordinary!
Paul, no doubt conscious of the message of Jesus, said, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). May God help us to do the ordinary and do it well, and live in the extraordinary life of Jesus who provided us life at the cost of His own.