Remembering Irena

July 8, 2012 by Mary Slade
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The Polish and Israeli Embassies have jointly held a classical concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre to perpetuate the heroism and memory of Irena Sendler, one of the Righteous  Among the Nations, honoured by Israel for her “light of compassion and love of her neighbor as herself”, and to whom the concert was dedicated.

Irena Sendler

Irena’s Song: A Ray of Light Through the Darkness is a work written by the acclaimed Israeli composer Kobi Oshrat ,who conducted The Orchestra of  Victoria and it featured Karin Shifrin, Israeli Soprano  in the Australian premiere of this altogether moving and inspirational musical tribute.

The story of Irena Sendler is one of a woman of great courage and resourcefulness, and an example of the power of the human spirit.
Born in 1910 to a Warsaw family known for its patriotic tradition, she was very much influenced by her father , a doctor dedicated to treating poor people, mainly Jews, and who in fact died himself from a typhus infection in an epidemic in 1910, aged only 40.
She grew up cherishing his values.
“People are divided only into good and bad, with no distinction of nationality , race religion, social status or education.
People are judged by their humanity with  the obligation to lend a hand to a drowning man “ were his guiding principles by which she lived.

When WW2  broke out she was working as a social worker and very soon joined the Polish underground organization, Zegota , the Council to Aid Jews. Through her work with the children of the Ghetto she and her helpers managed to save the lives of two thousand five hundred Jewish babies and children by secretly leading them outside the Walls day after day to be sheltered in private homes and Catholic convents.
She kept a precise account of the records of the children and their locations hidden in  jars buried under a tree in her garden and which she refused to disclose even under intense interrogation and torture by the Nazis.  Many of her children went on to lead full lives, even though their parents had been exterminated.
Her actions were even more remarkable and exceptional given that Poland was the only country occupied by the German Third Reich where rescuing Jews from annihilation was punishable by death for all involved.

Her tenets of love , tolerance and humility constituted  the themes of the addresses by the guest speakers, being the Polish and Israeli Ambassadors together with Greg Sheridan of The Australian  and included a personal story of survival from Harry Better who was saved as a child by the Skowron family, also Polish Righteous Among the Nations.

Irena Sendler died at the age of 98 in 2008 , having had  many prizes and awards bestowed upon her during her lifetime , culminating in her nomination for the Nobel  Peace prize in 2007.
This  unique concert evoked the values of Irena Sendler by its poignant and exhilarating music, exemplifying  the desire by both Polish and Jewish leaders and their communities  to deliver the message of never being indifferent to injustice and ensuring that the Holocaust tragedy should never happen again.
It was indeed a fitting and memorable event to revere this woman of the highest valour and courage.


3 Responses to “Remembering Irena”
  1. Mary says:

    It is gratifying to know that through such herioc people and their actions all hatred and grievances can disipate. It is only through this kind of selfless love can mankind survive. Much has been said over the years by the Jewish community against the Poles so I commend the Jewish community and the Polish community to come together in a spirit of unity and love. She was one of many who sacrificed their own safety for the Jewish people.

  2. Mary says:

    What a wonderful good news story. Thank you.

  3. michael says:

    What a great and memorable night, what a great selection of entertainment and speakers , what a coup getting the Polish Embassy to co sponsor with the Israeli Government and what a brave woman Irena Sendler was ,well done Ambassador YUval
    Rotem all your hard work in organizing this event paid off.

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