Friday, December 7, 2012

One Candle

Thought for the day:  It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.  [Chinese proverb]


Can the light from a single candle make a difference? Can one person radiate enough light to hold the powers of darkness at bay?

Yes, a thousand times yes. Or to be more accurate, 2500 times.

Hanukkah, an eight-day festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and spirituality over materialism, begins at sunset tomorrow. To all who are Jewish, I wish you a very happy Hanukkah. For the rest of us, I believe we, too, should embrace the ideals of light over darkness. 

Here's a story of a very special woman who did just that.


Her name? Irena Sendler. This is what she looked like in 1942, when the young Polish Catholic woman lived in German-occupied Warsaw. As a social worker and nurse, she was allowed to enter the Jewish ghetto. She saw their suffering first-hand, and knew that people of all ages were being  forcibly removed from their homes, never to return. And she also knew what the penalty was for trying to help them.





She knew what the penalty was, because signs like this were posted all over Warsaw. 

These signs issued a clear warning that helping anyone leave the Jewish settlement without authorization was punishable by death.

And yet...
[credit: German Federal Archive]
And yet, the dark plight of the children tore at her heartstrings, and she had to DO something. As a member of the Zegota resistance movement, she smuggled 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto, provided them with false identities, and got them to a safe location... to private homes, to orphanages, to convents. She took the children out in ambulances, under the pretext that they were infected with typhus; she carried them out in tool boxes; she transported them in coffins. Whatever it took, she did it. One after another, desperate parents turned their beloved children over to her, a virtual stranger, in the hopes that their children would be spared from the horrors of living... and dying... in a concentration camp. Each child's name, Sendler recorded on paper, along with their new identities and locations. Then she tucked those papers into jars, which she buried under an apple tree in her yard. Following the war, the information in those jars was used to reunite some of the families. Unfortunately, most of the parents were already gone, but thanks to Sendler and other members of the resistance, their children survived.


In 1965, Israel recognized Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations, a designation honoring non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. And risk her life, she did: Sendler was captured, tortured, and sentenced to death... and spared from execution by virtue of a bribe. The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is part of the Yad Vashem complex on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem.


At the entrance to the Garden stands the Tree of Irena Sendler. I don't know what kind of tree is it, but an apple tree would be perfect, wouldn't it?


[credit: Mariesz Kubik]









This picture, taken in 2005, shows Sendler with the grown-up versions of some of the children she smuggled out of that Warsaw ghetto during the war.

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]










In 2007, Sendler was presented with the Order of the Smile, an international award given by children to adults distinguished in their love, care, and aid for children. A year later, she passed away.




In 2009, Poland issued a commemorative coin in honor of three women. One was Irena Sendler, a woman who proved that one person... one candle burning brightly in the darkness... can indeed, make a difference.


In a world full of darkness, in a world full of pain,
All it takes is a sparkle, all it takes is a flame,
To make joy out of sadness, to bring hope to a life,
Like the promise of the dawn
On a long winter's night.
[from the song Light One Candle, by Ronnie Spector]


                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Let it shine!

P.S. For those of you who will be lighting menorah candles, I'll betcha you won't be doing it in such an unusual way as THIS...

50 comments:

  1. Irena Sendler is a woman to be admired, that's for sure. The world is a better place for her having been in it.

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    1. Indeed. Just think of all the descendants of the children she saved, all the lives made possible because of her courage. Boggles the mind.

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  2. A beautiful story of a beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing this today, Susan!

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  3. Okay, now I'm teary-eyed. What an wonderful story! I hope and pray that if I ever face dire circumstances that I'd have the same kind of courage.

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    1. I suspect that you would. Faith and prayer enable us to do amazing things.

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  4. Oh, this story brought tears to my eyes. Happy Hanukkah!

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    1. Sorry to make you cry, but they were good tears. Happy Hanukkah to you, too.

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  5. I loved reading this story of Ms. Sendler. Thank you so much for sending this. This was inspirational :)

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    1. Thank you. Glad you liked it. I found her story to be inspirational, too.

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  6. Beautiful story Susan. Angels do indeed walk among us.

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  7. You have made a lot of us cry today, Susan. I have never heard of this woman and am so glad you told us her story.

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    1. That a woman's actions of seventy years ago can still bring tears to our eyes says a lot about her. I hope her story is told for many years to come.

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  8. Wow, what a brave woman. Love reading stories like that.

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    1. She might not have been a warrior like the kind you write about, but she definitely had a lot of courage.

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  9. Now, that's how to light a Menorah!

    Thank you for telling the story of Irena Sendler. You lit a candle in my heart with that one. :)

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad somebody took the time to check out that Rube Goldberg video. Really cool, isn't it? Aw, what a sweet way to put it...

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  10. What a great story to share - thank you :)

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    1. Seemed like a appropriate story to go along with lighting candles. Glad ya liked it.

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  11. Some of those children came to Sweden. One, a little girl with big, black eyes full of sadness, came to live with our neighbor. We never played with her or got to know her as far as I can remember. I don't know why. But I do know that Ms. Sendler was a wonderful, caring, woman and a true hero.

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    1. How neat that you have a personal connection to this story. That you can still remember the little girl's "big black eyes full of sadness" tells me the experience made quite an impression on you. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it? Thank you! :)

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    1. It sure does. Good to see ya making the rounds again!

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  13. Susan, your post is gorgeous and truly touches the heart. I lived in Israel for a while. Irena Sendler is revered there beyond words. I adore her. The last photo, of her smiling, is a saint smiling! Every time we smile we light a candle. One of the most peaceful people I've ever met in my life was on a kibbutz in Israel. The tattoos were on his arm. But from somewhere inside he had found a place where the light was bright. His old eyes sparkled like I haven't seen on anyone since. He was at such peace with himself and the world, I think of those eyes wen life's train comes roaring at me and know there is worse, much worse.

    Thank you, Susan, for your support of "Rings of Trust." The launch continues to be amazing. I feel really blessed, all that support. It kinda overwhelms, actually, and is a really nice thing.

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    1. Glad you liked it, Kittie. I once met a woman very much like the man you met in the kibbutz. She literally had an inner glow, and radiated peace and love. She ran a home for special needs children, and her peace and love blanketed those children. It's been thirty-some years since I met her, but I'll never forget her face. Like a female Kris Kringle. It's my pleasure to support your book. I already have it on my Kindle and hope to read it tonight. I'll mention it on my blog on Monday.

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  14. Here's a real holiday post- cry your eyes out at the incredible Irena Sendler, then laugh at a Rube Goldberg job. Yep, my candle's burning. Thanks, Susan. x

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    1. Hey, crying... laughing... it's all cathartic, right? And I already knew your candle was burning.

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  15. And yet, the dark plight of the children tore at her heartstrings...

    The WW2 documentary "World At War" showed film segments of abandoned Jewish children living on the streets. When I first saw the footage years ago I could not hide the fact I was crying.

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  16. Irena Sendler was, indeed, a hero. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. A single small light goes a long, long way.

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    1. It sure can. And the darker it is, the more important that single light is.

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  18. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Love,
    Janie

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  19. Thank you for posting this. Talk about having guts, courage, and a heart!

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    1. Yep, she had it all. She's a shining role model for all of us.

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  20. She just looks like a really nice person, doesn't she.

    Haven't those Technion students heard of MATCHES?

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    1. Aw, but matches wouldn't have been nearly as much fun!

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  21. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it. So many heroes emerged in the midst of such darkness.

    Happy Hanukkah to you. I'll think of this story when we light candles tonight.

    My dad always used to say that proverb when I was a kid.

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    1. You're right; heroes and the brightest human spirits emerged in those dark days. Thank you so much for stopping by and for signing on as a new follower. Welcome aboard, and a very Happy Hanukkah to you.

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  22. What an amazing woman. Thank you so much for sharing that and for your Hanukkah wishes.

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    1. Yes, she was. It was an honor to share her story.

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  23. I read somewhere that "courage" skips a generation. Irena was obviously born after the skipped one. That is such a beautiful picture of her when she was young, such a smooth jaw line and soft eyes that are filled with expectancy. The photo of her when she was 98 shows an inner glow of completion. Vibrant eyes that tell a story without words. The pleasant curve of her mouth is without bitterness and her hands rest in composure. That picture says, "My work is finished."

    My friend Susan, you really caught the essence of this woman with your sensitive writing.

    And then the Rube Goldberg to end with a smile. You Smarty, You.
    Love and Peace

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    1. I don't know about courage skipping a generation, but I think Irena Sendler had enough courage for several generations. Thanks for your kind words. I do appreciate it. Love and Peace to you, too.

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