Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews

Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews

January 29,2009

Dr. Przemyslaw Chojnowski: Irena Sendler’s Children

Dr.Chojnowski is the 2008/09 Polish Studies Fulbright Lecturer at the
University of Washington in Seattle. In Poland, he is an Assistant
Professor at the Department of Polish and Classical Philology at the
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. He received his PhD from the
European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, where he taught
Polish as a Foreign Language. Professor Chojnowski’s most important
publications, both in Polish and German, are devoted to translations and
reception of Polish literature, Polish-German liaisons, literary
bilingualism, and the poetry of Fr. Jan Twardowski. He is the recipient
of a Research Fellowship of the Catholic Academic Exchange Service
(KAAD) Bonn, Germany.

Dr. Chojnowski’s lecture was devoted to the Polish WWII hero Irena
(also: Irena Sendlerowa, February 15, 1910 – May 12, 2008)
who was a Polish Catholic social worker. During the Nazi occupation,
she ran the children’s department of the resistance organization Żegota,
saving about 2,500 Jewish children from death. Risking her life daily,
Ms. Sendler smuggled the children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing
false documents and sheltering them in homes, convents, and orphanages.
She made lists of the children’s real names and put them in jars, then
buried the jars in a garden, so that someday she could dig them up and
find the children to tell them of their real identity. In 1943, despite
her arrest, torture, and imprisonment by the Gestapo, she did not
divulge her mission. She was rescued from death by the Polish
underground and went into hiding. For a long time, Irena’s heroism was
unknown to the world, even though she had received recognition from Yad
Vashem in 1965. In 1999, ninth grade high school students from
Uniontown, Kansas, found her story in a magazine and popularized it in a
play titled “Life in a Jar.” In 2007, Irena Sendler was nominated for
the Nobel Peace Prize.

The lecture was followed by a work-in-progress movie, “In the Name of
Their Mothers: The Story of Irena Sendler” by Mary Skinner

The third lecture in the Polish Heroes, Those Who Rescued Jews,
exhibit and lecture series, sponsored by the University of Washington
Polish Studies Endowment Committee (UW PSEC), Consulate General of the
Republic of Poland in Los Angeles, and Washington State Holocaust
Education Resource Center, in cooperation with the University of
Washington’s Ellison Center, History Department, Jewish Studies Program,
and Slavic Department.