CATHOLIC WOMAN/JEWISH SAINT
IRENA SENDLER: (died May 12th, 2008...she was 98)
If you have not heard about Irena, I hope that you will take the time to watch the youtube video reference below: I wish that I had met her…but then again, there were so many, and it was a long time ago……..
During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. It was to smuggle Jewish infants out of the ghetto in the bottom of the toolbox she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for the larger ones.
A dog in the back was trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered any of the children's noise.
Her unbelieveable heroic effort saved 2500 young children.
Eventually, she was caught and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.
Irena kept a record of the names of all the children in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. The children she helped were placed into foster family homes or adopted.
In 2007 Irena was assumed to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected.*
They understood that life and liberty were all that mattered and that they had survived.I met them; several hundred. All of them had tattooed numbers on their wrists or arms.
A dozen or more who had also been imprisoned in the Soviet Union. Survivors of Stalin and the Gulags. We met to plan for the first gathering of American holocaust survivors in Washington D.C. Their stories stunned.
At other times, in so many places, I have met them.
THERE WAS ONE IN PARTICULAR:
When I met him, he was the President of a Advertising Agency in Boston. He was a big man who lived an even bigger life.
When he was 16 and living in Czechoslovakia. He and some other young scouts were to be rounded up by the occupying German forces for writing anti- Nazi slogans on walls. His parents put him on a train with a suitcase and a piece of family china.
He was heading for a boys camp in Italy and from there he would travel to Palestine where he would go to school and study music. He served in two liberating armies. A scallywag of sorts, but a survivor in the extreme.
On the island of Culebra, PR, I met another. This man survived the journey from Cuba to Miami in a raft after the Bay of Pigs invasion. There were 23 who left. Their journey was treacherous. Four survived. The man I speak of had about twenty dollars in his pocket when he came ashore. He is now a Vice President of a TV station in Puerto Rico.
Desperation often drives us toward success. When there is nothing to carry and nothing left at home, there is only one direction… and that is forward. When the enemy is at your back, you run like hell. Those who walk looking back are bound to falter and fail.
ROSE: Had it not been for her courage....my ancestors would have perished in the pogroms of Europe.
My great-grandmother crossed two continents with three young children. They traveled in steerage. I cannot imagine how she survived and how hard it was for her to re-settle in a country where she could not speak the language. My grandfather, a young child, had no memory of his father.
BOSTON: 1888: (Excerpt from HB…. my grandfather)
"Henry hid behind his mother’s skirt. The bearded man making his way toward her frightened the child. “Take your brothers, Henry!” Rose shouted as she rushed toward the stranger and willingly allowed him to assault her with kisses on the lips and embraces that held her fast to him. “Let her go!” The young boy screamed, thinking his mother was being taken from him. He tore himself from little boys in his charge and began to flay the man with fists and feet. Rose pulled him away, and with a compassionate hug calmed the agitated child. “Stop Henry. Show respect. This man is your father! ”
And so it was with most of our ancestors. They traveled across the world in search of freedom, opportunity and fortune. Many came in chains without as slaves, others as indentured servants. Some went to work in mines where the only thing they owned was their soul. Others went to live on farms to literally scratch a living from the soil. Others moved into tenements where they shared a few rooms with family and went to work in factories.
Cramped into the back of airless busses and trucks, in holes of freighters the new immigrants flee to America for jobs and the promise of a better life. It is impossible for me to imagine being homeless in the bowels of a wretched ship, vomiting and soiling without hope of ever seeing land or light.
"I have written this post seveal times and I can never seem to end it. I find it odd that we who live in the land the land of liberty, can always find something to complain about. Even those who have felt the dragon's breath, find difficulties within this sanctuary.
What I have learned, is that there are no standardized dreams and freedom is an elusive word which changes with the circumstances of our birth and the politics of the time. Without dissatisfaction there would be stagnation. And therein lies the biggest problem."