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BY Tim Drake
On Sunday, CBS is airing Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler. While not a household name, she should be as well known as Schindler. Sendler was a Polish Catholic credited with saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children during World War II.
Using a network of largely female social workers and others, she smuggled children out of Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto to safety. Academy Award-winning actress Anna Paquin portrays Sendler in the made-for-TV movie. You can read an interview with her at Catholic Digest.
Her story was largely unknown until the fall of 1999. For it was then that a rural Kansas teacher showed four high school students a short clip from a March 1994 issue of News and World Report that mentioned Sendler’s name. The students set to work on a year-long National History Day project, researching and looking for primary and secondary sources on Sendler.
In the end, the students wrote the play, “Life in a Jar”, which portrays the life of Sendler. They’ve performed the program more than 250 times in the U.S. and Europe. You can learn more about Sendler, the student’s History Day project, and the play at the Irena Sendler website.