Friday, May 19, 2017

Irena's Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo (audiobook)


There are few cities who can claim the level of WWII destruction that Warsaw, Poland experienced.  It's unthinkable, really.  For the Jews in this city, the crime of their identity resulted in first, a life on the brink in the ghetto and then, with sickeningly few exceptions, murder.  For the Poles living during this perilous time, you could either stand by and watch or you could choose to fight.  And there were far more ways of fighting than just holding a gun or making a bomb.  For Irena Sendler, a Polish Social Worker and left-wing activitist, her way of fighting was to rescue children - to take them from right under the noses of the Gestapo and to secret them away to safe houses and orphanages where they could wait out the war.

This book was both astonishing and absolutely horrific. It's a beginning to end look at the Warsaw experience during the war, told from the eyes of its resistance and, most particularly, its cells that were committed to hiding young Jews.  The sacrifices and risks of so many regular people is beyond inspiring.  I had a hard time keeping track of all but the most commonly used names, although the author does a good job of helping job our memory about details, clearly the saving of children was a monumental effort made by many individuals across the city and countryside.

Not only was she helping to smuggle children,  Irena's biggest contribution was her "lists" - her compilation of true identities and locations so that, hopefully one day, families could be reunited. And she knew she was doing all of this at the peril of her own life.  There is so much horror here.  The kind that made me cover my mouth with my hand and try to not be sick.  The atrocities against children just cannot be forgotten.  Not ever.  Any group that slaughters the innocent and vulnerable must be stopped.  This book truly shows how people whose hearts are more committed to the right than they are committed to their own safety and comfort can work amazing things.  And like the starfish being thrown back into the ocean one at a time, every infant carried out of the ghetto in a tool box, every toddler carried through a filthy sewer - for every one of these precious ones, Irena provided them with a miracle.

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