«Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to help them» (Proverbs 3:27).
There was a heroine who went by unnoticed for many years. Very few historians acknowledged her, because her name had been erased from official records. She hadn’t mentioned anything about her life during the second World War. But in 1999, her story began to be known thanks to a group of students conducting research on Holocaust heroes. The data they found was amazing: Irena had saved 2,500 children.
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Irena was working as a nurse in Varsovia ‘s Department of Social Welfare, which was in charge of managing the city’s soup Kitchens.
When Nazis set up the ghettos in 1942, Irena joined the Council for the Aid to Jews. She managed to work in the fight against contagious diseases, and since the Germans feared the typhus epidemic, the Polish were given permission to control the place. Irena began to offer families the possibility of taking their children outside the ghetto, as hard as that decision was for them: it was either that or a sure death in concentration camps.
At first, she covertly smuggled them out as typhus victims, but in the end she used any means or object within her reach as a way of escape. She made false documents for them and kept papers with the children’s real facts and their new identity in several glass jars. She hid the jars under an apple tree in her neighbor’s garden.
One day, the Nazis found out what she was doing, detained her and beat her brutally. They broke her legs and feet, but she endured the torture without betraying anyone. Although she was sentenced to death, a soldier allowed her to escape and from then on she changed her identity.
When the war ended, she dug out the jars and looked for foster families for the 2,500 children she had saved. In addition, she reunited them with their relatives who still remained in Europe.
Years later, when a newspaper shared her story and a few pictures, she began receiving phone calls from the children, who were adults by then, who remembered her and owed their lives to her.
Irena’s father had taught her the following, «Always help someone who’s drowning, no matter what religion or nationality they are. Helping someone every day has to be a need that comes from the heart. » Who will you help today?