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Bring It Like a Broad: Irena Sendler Saves 2,500 Children During the Holocaust

It’s that time of the month again! The time where we celebrate women, and all we are capable of . Yep, it’s time for Bring It Like a Broad!

Remember, the purpose of this series is to highlight real women who are doing or have done the extraordinary. Our goal in celebrating these special people and their accomplishments is that each of us will be encouraged to believe in the possibility of our own goals and dreams. We also hope that seeing these women changing the world will blaze paths for all the little girls out there who will grow up someday and want to join their ranks.

 



The first two installments of this series were interviews with women I know personally, who have majorly inspired me. Today, we are going to honor a woman from the past who made an enormous impact on the lives of those around her.

 

THE BROAD

Most of us have heard of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved the lives of 1,200 Jewish people during the Holocaust. He has been the subject of books and movies, and is a person who is incredibly inspiring for his courage and bravery. But he is not the only person who risked his life to save others during the Holocaust.

Meet our February Broad, Irena Sendler.

 

Irena in 2005, photo courtesy of irenasendler.org

She was a Polish woman born on February 15, 1910 near the Warsaw ghetto. Today would be her 108th birthday, so it’s fitting she be recognized as our bad ass broad this month.

Irena’s father had a great influence on her throughout her whole life. He was one of the first Polish Socialists, and was a doctor, whose patients were mostly poor Jews.

During World War II, the Warsaw ghetto was the largest Jewish ghetto in German-occupied Europe. Irena was a Senior Administrator of the Warsaw Social Welfare Department. This organization provided food, money, and other services to the elderly, to orphans and to the poor and homeless. She was the equivalent of a social worker today.

 

Photo found by Teresa Prekerowa, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Irena began to use her position as a social worker to aid the Jews. In November of 1940, the Warsaw ghetto was sealed off. Almost 400,000 people had been driven into the extremely small area, only about 16 blocks. Conditions were horrible. Good hygiene was impossible, there was no food or medical supplies, and there was no space. Soon, disease became rampant, as well as death.

Because she was an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she was given a special permit which allowed her to enter areas of the ghetto where the Jewish people were. She was supposed to be checking for signs of diseases like typhus, because the Germans were paranoid about the diseases spreading beyond the ghetto.

She began sneaking clothing, money, and medicine in to the Jewish people. She would report the Jewish families she was helping as having highly infectious diseases, in order to prevent the Germans from coming to inspect.

Irena joined a secret group called Zegota (the Council to Aid Jews) in 1942. This group was organized by the Polish underground resistance, and Irena was one of it’s first recruits. She became an integral part of the organization, and a huge reason they were able to accomplish so much. They created over 3,000 false documents to help Jewish families. In 1943, she was nominated to head Zegota’s Jewish children’s section.

Irena and her coworkers began to smuggle infants and toddlers out of the Warsaw ghetto, saving them from being sent to concentration camps. They got very creative in the ways they would sneak the children out. Sometimes they would use ambulances, but more often they had to hide the children in suitcases and packages.

 

Children in Warsaw ghetto, photo courtesy of iwka.wordpress.com

 

Remember, it was no light slap on the wrist if you were caught helping the Jews in World War II. In fact, it was a huge risk, punishable by death. To make things worse, the Nazis wouldn’t just kill the person aiding the Jews, but also that person’s whole family, and sometimes even their close friends or acquaintances. She risked her life every single day, and she had to be very strategic in order to protect those close to her as well.

Once the children were hidden and smuggled out, they would be placed with either Polish Christian families, or into orphanages and convents. The children were protected further by being given false names. They were also taught to recite Christian prayers, just in case they were ever tested by Nazis.

Irena and her helpers were very careful to make sure the children didn’t lose their Jewish identities. They kept detailed documents listing the children’s real names, fake names, and locations. Of course, they couldn’t risk those documents being found, so they would hide them in jars and bury them. Irena was determined to get each child back to their family after the war was over, if at all possible.

Sadly, the Germans eventually caught on to what Irena was doing. In 1943 she was arrested and her home was ransacked. During this event, Irena was able to toss the lists of children to her friend, who hid them in her loose clothing. Her friend was never searched, thus keeping the children safe.

Irena was brutally tortured and beaten horribly. The Nazis fractured her feet and her legs, among other things. But Irena was courageous, and never betrayed any of the children or her coworkers. She was sentenced to death by firing squad.

 

Pawaik Prison, where the Nazis held Irena, photo courtesy of irenasendler.org

 

Fortunately, on the way to her execution, members of Zegota were able to bribe some of the greedy Germans into letting her go. She immediately went in to hiding.

You would think that would be enough for her, but it wasn’t. Irena had a determination and drive that isn’t seen a lot in this world. She returned to Warsaw with a fake identity, and began working with the Zegota organization again, continuing to help and hide Jews. She also worked as a nurse.

 

Photograph by Anna Mieszkowska, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

When the war ended, Irena and her coworkers turned the children’s records over to one of their colleagues who attempted to find the children and return them to their parents. Sadly, almost all of the parents had either gone missing, or had been killed in concentration camps. That goes to show that if it weren’t for Irena, most of those children would have been murdered, too.

It’s a travesty that Irena’s accomplishments went virtually unnoticed for decades. In fact, it wasn’t until 2000, when four students at Uniontown High School in Kansas won the Kansas State National History Day Competition, that Irena’s story became mainstream. They won by writing a play about Irena’s accomplishments, called Life in a Jar. It brought the spotlight to Irena and all she had done. The world finally took notice!

Irena lived a long and meaningful life after the war, still staying involved in activism. She passed away in May of 2008.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jews had been removed from this earth. The absolute horror of the atrocities that took place during that time are indescribable. Before the war, there were 9 million Jews in the 21 European countries that would eventually be overrun by the Germans. By the end of the war, two out of every three of those Jews had been killed. 1.2 million Jewish children were murdered. That doesn’t account for the thousands of children who were left disabled, missing body parts, and without families.

 

Irena with some of the children she saved, photo by Mariusz Kubik, courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Irena Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children. That’s more than twice the number of Jews saved by Oskar Schindler! She used her position to do what she believed no one else could. She risked her life, enduring torture and ridicule at the hands of the Nazis, and almost being killed, only to go right back out and do it again.

I can’t think of a more courageous woman than Irena. She reminds me that sometimes we have the ability to help a person, and we always should. It wasn’t her fight, but she fought it anyway. Those children mattered to her, and she knew she could make a difference, so she did. Imagine the 2,500 children she saved, and how many people’s lives that affects. Those 2,500 people now have children and grandchildren, all of whom wouldn’t even exist today if it weren’t for the courage of this woman.

 

A tree planted in Irena’s honor, photo courtesy of iwka.wordpress.com

 

“I did nothing special. Any decent person would do the same thing under the circumstances. When somebody is drowning, you reach in to save them whether you can swim or not. Race, religion, nationality don’t matter.”  -Irena Sendler

Isn’t her humility incredible? When we go through hardships in our life, stop for a second and look at the big picture. Not to say our problems aren’t relevant, but just remember, no matter our situation, we can change this world, just like Irena did. We may not save thousands of lives, but if we can affect just one person for the better, then our life means something more.

 

Is there a woman you know personally who inspires you and others in some way? Is there a woman from history that you look up to? There are no guidelines–if a woman is inspiring to you in ANY way, it counts!

Please email me if you have a lady you want to see featured in Bring It Like a Broad.

You can also email me with any questions or comments you may have: theog@thebonafidebroad.com.

 

Until next time,

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Information for this article was taken from:

wikipedia.org

irenesendler.org

iwka.wordpress.com

patch.com

 



 

I’m the founder of The Bonafide Broad, and a thirty-something broad originally from the Pacific Northwest. I now live in Flagstaff, Arizona, with my guy, Mr. OG. When I’m not busy rescuing kittens from tall trees, carrying babies from burning buildings, and trying to establish world peace, I work for the school district in Flagstaff, and I run this blog.

Where in the Bloody Hell Did Halloween Come From?

 

Tomorrow, people all over the nation and the world will disguise themselves and walk around their neighborhoods begging strangers for candy. Seems legit.

I was raised in a very religious household, and never celebrated Halloween growing up. It makes me wonder where this bizarre holiday and its traditions came from, and how it became what it is today.



I did some research, and I have to say, it was fascinating. I decided to be a doll and share the most interesting points in a post, in honor of the holiday. Happy Halloween!

 

Origins

Like most holidays, the origins of Halloween are rooted in pagan customs. It seems that Halloween began in Celtic Ireland some 2,000 years ago. Back then, it was not called Halloween, it was called Samhain, which means November, or summer’s end. The Celts had four major festivals each year, and Samhain was their autumn festival.

 

 

One thing that makes the Celtic calendar much different from ours is that the Celts believed that days and years began in darkness and transitioned into lightness.

This is why their new year began in the winter. It began in the darker months, and progressed lighter into spring and summer. So November 1 is the Celtic New Year. Celebrations began at sunset the night before, which is October 31.

The Celts were very cautious of transitions, believing that during these times the normal laws of the universe did not apply. The World Book Encyclopedia states: “The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living…During Samhain, the living could visit with the dead.”

With November 1 marking the New Year, the Celts thought the transition between the old year and the New Year opened the boundaries of the “Otherworld.” Spirit creatures would be able to roam the earth freely during this transition.

 

Influences on Samhain

When the Romans conquered most of the Celtic lands, they began to bring some of their traditions into the mix. There are two major Roman festivals that were eventually incorporated into Samhain.

The first was the festival of Feralia, which was near the end of October. This festival honored the passing of the dead. The second was the festival to Pomona, the god of fruit and trees.

 

 

The apple was the symbol of Pomona. Interestingly, since the Irish festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest, apples were already a big part of that. In fact, it was required that all of the apples had to be picked before the festivities of Samhain could begin on the night of October 31. So it made sense for the conquering Romans to elevate apples into the festival.

Despite Roman opposition, even after they were conquered, the Celts kept celebrating Samhain. In the 7th century, Pope Gregory III declared that November 1 would be All Saints Day, or all Hallows Day. Previously All Saints Day had been in May. This move was likely to merge Christian and pagan beliefs, thus converting more pagans to Christianity.

The evening before became All Hallows Eve, which eventually came to be called Halloween.

 

How Common Traditions Began

There are so many interesting traditions associated with Halloween, and let me tell you, their origins are not boring. I picked out four of the best (in my humble opinion) Halloween traditions, and found out how they began.

 

Costumes:

As I mentioned, it was believed by the Celts that spirit creatures could roam freely on Samhain. Some people even left their doors opened and placed food out for the spirits of their loved ones to welcome them home.

 

 

However, it was also thought that some of these spirits were looking for bodies to inhabit, or wanted to harm people they were angry at in their lives on earth.

To protect themselves, the Celts disguised themselves in various costumes, their version of demons, often incorporating animal heads. The purpose was to confuse the evil spirits, and trick them into thinking the humans were also demons. It was a defense mechanism to protect the living.

As time passed and Christianity began to exert more influence over the holiday, the Catholic Church encouraged dressing up as angels, saints, and other heavenly creatures. Eventually, it became acceptable to dress up as anything you wanted, as long as it was a disguise.

 

Jack O’ Lanterns:

I’ve always wondered why we carve strange faces into pumpkins in the days approaching October 31. Again, this tradition is rooted in Irish history.

 

 

The Celts had a myth about a man called Stingy Jack. He was a blacksmith and a drunk, and one night he ran into the Devil in a pub.

He invited the Devil for a drink. However, being “stingy,” he did not want to pay for his drink. He managed to convince the Devil to turn himself into a coin to pay for their drinks, in exchange for Jack’s soul.

 

 

However, when the Devil complied, Jack changed his mind and pocketed the coin. Jack had a silver cross in his pocket next to the coin, which prevented the Devil from freeing himself. He only agreed to set the Devil free on the promise that the Devil would leave him and his soul alone for 10 years. The Devil complied.

After the passing of 10 years, Jack again encountered the Devil, this time on a country road. The Devil was eager to claim what was owed to him. However, Jack ended up tricking the Devil again, convincing him to climb a tree to grab a luscious apple as a last meal for Jack to enjoy before having his soul claimed.

When the Devil did so, Jack quickly carved a cross into the trunk of the tree, trapping the Devil again. He made the Devil promise to never try to claim his soul again. Having no choice, the Devil again complied, and was freed by Jack.

The story doesn’t end there for Stingy Jack. When he died, God wanted nothing to do with the deceiver, and barred him from entering Heaven. To top it off, the Devil was pissed and didn’t want Jack in Hell either. Confused and distraught, Jack asked the Devil what he was supposed to do. The Devil told him to go back where he came from.

The way was very dark, so the Devil, in an undeserved act of decency, tossed Jack a piece of coal from hell. Jack placed the coal into a carved turnip to light his way.

 

Stingy Jack | How To Carve The Perfect Jack-O-Lantern [Infographic])

Image via Jovan-Ukropina Deviant Art

 

From then on, he was no longer called Stingy Jack. Instead, they called him Jack of the Lantern. It is said that he still roams the earth with his turnip lantern.

Tradition meant the Irish would carve creepy faces into turnips and place them in windows to scare away Stingy Jack and the other unsavory souls that roamed the earth on Samhain. Later, after the Irish immigrated to America, pumpkins became the more accepted vegetable for this purpose.

 

Bobbing for Apples:

While the apple has always had a large part in the origins of Halloween, the tradition of bobbing for apples actually came from Britain, and extended to Ireland. It was known as a courting ritual. The first young lady to bite an apple would be the first to marry, it was believed.

 

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org

 

The game was eventually all but forgotten, until Americans decided to incorporate it into modern Halloween festivities.

There was also a superstition that if a girl put her bitten apple under her pillow before she fell asleep, she would see her future husband in her dreams.

 

Trick or Treating:

There are differing opinions about the origins of trick or treating.

One theory asserts that it began in medieval times. Poor adults and their children would go door to door on All Hallows Eve and offer to say prayers and sing songs for the recently departed souls of that family. In exchange, the family would give food or beer to the poor family as a token of appreciation.

 

 

Another theory is that because All Hallows Eve became known for pranks, the term “Trick or Treat” was coined to offer kids an alternative to playing pranks, a sort of bribe. The here-are-some-treats-don’t-TP-my-yard-please kind of bribe.

Wherever trick or treating originated from, it became an integral part of Halloween festivities after the Great Depression. Children began going to homes dressed in costumes asking for candy, and it stuck.

 

Halloween Today

Today, Halloween is celebrated all over the world. Kids love to dress up and roam the neighborhoods filling bags or buckets with as much candy as they can. For adults, like many other American holidays, Halloween has become an excuse to gather, eat, drink, and party. We even dress up our animals!

 

 

This festival meant a lot people 2,000 years ago. It may not mean the same thing to us today, but Halloween is a great example of the way ancient festivals and traditions from different cultures have collided and morphed into modern day celebrations.

So when you celebrate tomorrow, stop for a moment to think about how humans have been taking part in similar festivals basically since the beginning of our species.

We continue to grow and change as time goes by, which begs the question: What will Halloween will look like 2,000 years in the future?

 

Be safe and have fun!

 

 

 

The information in this post was taken from several different resources, including:

Irishgeneologytoolkit.com

Albany.edu

JW.org

History.com

Hauntedbay.com

Smithsonianmag.com

 

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I’m the founder of The Bonafide Broad, and a thirty-something broad originally from the Pacific Northwest. I now live in Flagstaff, Arizona, with my guy, Mr. OG. When I’m not busy rescuing kittens from tall trees, carrying babies from burning buildings, and trying to establish world peace, I work for the school district in Flagstaff, and I run this blog.