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HALLMARK Irena sendler – a force to be reckoned

Movie Poster

Movie Poster

This is not just another “Hallmark Hall of Fame” flick. On April 20, 2009 CBS aired brilliantly crafted made-for-tv movie “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler”. It tells the story of a Polish Catholic social worker, who with the help of volunteers rescued around 2,500 Jewish children in the depressing times of World War II. Academy Award winning actress Anna Paquin donned the role of Irena Sendler and is based on the book “The Mother of the Holocaust Children” written by Anna Mieszkowska. Have a look at the official TV site: http://www.cbs.com/specials/courageous_heart

The story begins with the gloomy Warsaw ghetto with some 4,50,000 packed Jews in squalid conditions. And outside the ghetto, Irena Sendler and her compatriots disguised as nurses and social workers visit the emaciated and dying children for service. As chief organizer of secret movement called Zegota – Council for Assistance to the Jews, she started her rescue operations for ailing Jewish children. Prior to working with Zegota, she assisted hundreds of Jews of all ages with fake documents to hide at places outside the ghetto.

She maintained a secret document of birth names of the children and had had the hope that on one day they will reunite with their families. Sadly, many of the relatives died in the Holocaust. When Nazis found the Sendler’s courageous ruse they arrested and tortured her and on the day of execution, she was rescued by “Zegota”. It is to be noted that not a single rescued child of hers was ever discovered or betrayed by the Nazis. A spine-chilling moment of the movie is that when she finds one of the toughest task to accomplish – to convince the families to handover the children to unknown Christian rescuers and the relatives fear the pain of separation. The children were then emptied at a place called Treblinka- a camp solely raised to execute Jewish people.

Irena in Action

Irena in Action

For many years her altruistic story was relatively unknown, even though she was given due credit from Yad Vashem in 1965 and recognition from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in New York City. Her story was buried in her own country by haughty communists.

Anna Paquin’s performance as selfless Irena is exceedingly well and the rest of the cast consists of Nathaniel Parker as Dr. Majkowski, head of Warsaw’s Department of Health and Marcia Gay Harden, who portrayed as Irena’s mother, Janina.

In addition to the movie, her selfless story was recently taken up by four high school students from Kansas and they did some research into her life and works. Finally, they came up with a play, “Life in a Jar”. You can have a look at their project and the play at: http://www.irenasendler.org/default.asp

Talmud said, “He who saves one life, saves the whole world”. Irena is the best example for that. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize after some hundred years – yet disheartening to note that NPP committee failed to recognise her outstanding service for the mankind. At a time when saving a children penalizes immediate death, her bold attempt to save 2,500 children did not deserve any credit from them.

Real Irena!

Real Irena!

Irena left us on May 12, 2008. Still her determination and valour will remain in our hearts forever. Her story as a play ‘Life in a Jar’ retains her legacy for years to come.

Sendler recalled her Ghetto trauma, “Did the World help me when I was saving these children? I walked the streets, crying over my helplessness”. Shortly before her death in 2008, she said, “The world has learned nothing from the lessons of World War II and the Shoah”. Wasn’t her comment justifiable?

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April 20, 2009 Posted by | Global Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments