Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

Even If You Can’t Swim


I have a new hero. Her name was Irena Sendlerowa, better known as Irena Sendler. She died in 2008 at the age of 98, but that’s not the reason she’s my new hero. (Although I’m hoping to emulate her in that respect.)

Here’s why she’s my hero–


I read this on Facebook:

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist.
She had an ‘ulterior motive’.

She KNEW what the Nazi’s plans were for the Jews (being German). Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids).  She also had a dog in the back that she 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 the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.  She was caught, and the Nazi’s broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.
Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn’t win.

So naturally, I went to  Snopes to see if they were telling the truth. I hate it when I read something as exciting as that and then find out it’s not true.

Don’t you?

Read it here on Snopes.

I did a Google search and found a website that told about a group of Kansas high school students had researched her life and written a play about her. (I had trouble telling G-Man about Irena–couldn’t talk for crying. I’m not sure how they could get through the play without crying their eyes out.)

From Wikipedia:

In 1999, a group of Kansas high school students discovered Irena’s story and wrote a play about her called, Life in a Jar. The play is still being performed all over the United States. It has since been adapted to television as The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.[19][20][21] Actress Anna Paquin plays the role of Irena.

Sendler’s story was largely unknown to the world until the students developed The Irena Sendler Project,[22][23] producing their performance Life in a Jar. This student-produced drama has now been performed over 285 times all across the United States, in Canada and in Poland. Sendler’s message of love and respect has grown through the performances, over 1,500 media stories, a student-developed website with 30,000,000 hits, a national teaching award in Poland and the United States, and an educational foundation, the Lowell Milken Education Center, to make Sendler’s story known to the world.

Life in a Jar continues to travel around the country[24] sharing Irena’s story.

According to the website telling about the play, Life in a Jar, Irena’s father was a physician who contacted typhus working with patients during an epidemic.

While he was dying, he told seven-year-old Irena, “If you see someone drowning, you must try to save them, even if you can’t swim.” He died right after that, but the little girl never forgot his actions or his words. He gave his life for others.

She lived her life for others. (Sound like anyone you know?)

If I were a teacher, I’d see if I could find The Courage Life of Irena Sendler and I’d show it to every child in every class I taught.

In this day when so many parents are busy, trying to keep their heads above water, sometimes they forget to tell their kids the things they need to know. That leaves the people who teach them and spend time with them each day to set the example. Tell them the things their parents don’t, even if they can’t put always put it in words.

This play might be a way.

Wonder if we could get Life in a Jar to come to C-Town?

Gotta go dry my eyes now.


Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

8 thoughts on “Even If You Can’t Swim

  1. Reblogged this on Pasarea Phoenix Remixed & co and commented:
    Uite de unde sare iepurele!

  2. She didn’t win the Noble Prize, but she was awarded the RIGHTOUS AMONG THE NATIONS, an award Israel kept for only those of other nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the war. She was also made an honorary citizen of Israel.

    • Yes, she did, Jackie.
      It thrilled me that lots of those 2500 Jewish kids she rescued went to Catholic homes and convents to hide from the Nazis. Those were very brave people.

  3. Reblogged this on Chipuitorul and commented:
    “If you see someone drowning, you must try to save them, even if you can’t swim.”

  4. I spent a lot of time as a young adult reading and watching many things about the holocaust. I just couldn’t understand how people anywhere could let this happen. I didn’t know about Irena specifically but have read lots of stories about a lot of people that risked their lives for others. I look forward to reading about her…Thanks Susan.

    • Bea,
      I’ve never been able to read much about the holocaust, because after I’ve read a little, I start having nightmares. It’s impossible to believe that anyone could do that to another living creature, especially a human.
      I’m so glad I saw that FB story about Irena. I might have to see what other heroes are out there.

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