Irena’s Children, Young Readers Edition [Simon & Schuster] has historical photographs throughout, but many did not make the cut.
Here's one showing three of the children who's lives Irena saved, Michal Glowinski, Piotrus Zysman, and Elzbieta Koppel.
I don't know when or where the photo was taken. Piotr, in the middle, was four years old when he was sneaked out of the Warsaw Ghetto. I first told Elzbieta's story here. At that time I didn't know I'd later be invited to work on a book about Irena.
The photo below of Irena and an unidentified child is courtesy of the Museum of Polish Jews.
Courage was rooted deep in Irena's family. During the January Uprising in 1863, which started as a protest by young Poles against conscription into the Imperial Russian Army, Irena's great grandfather's small estate was headquarters for the insurgents near Kalisz in central Poland.
The Russians put down the Polish-Lithuanian rebels, executed many and deported others to Siberia, including Irena's maternal great grandfather Karol Grzybowski. He died after a year of hard labor manacled to a wheeled cart.
Irena was greatly influenced by her father, Stanislaw Krzyzanowski's political activities and compassion for the poor, which is detailed in the book. During a typhoid epidemic in their local area, Irena's father was the only doctor who would treat those suffering the illness. He ended up catching the disease himself and dying when Irena was a young child.
Little wonder, Irena would later risk her life posing as a nurse to enter the Jewish Ghetto carrying medicine and food for the sick and starving. (Photograph courtesy of www.chabad.org & The Jewish Women.org)
Above, Irena Sendler rides in a parade in Warsaw in 1948. (Courtesy Of The Irena Sendler Project) You might think that she would remain a celebrity for her humanitarian deeds, but after World War II when Poland fell to the Communists, Irena was persona non grata like others who had supported or fought for Polish Independence.
Irena's Children hits bookstore shelves September 27. Pre-order now to have your book that day!
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories from history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
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