The Tree of Life

Harmony Thiessen, of Golden Zen, contacted me asking if I would like to collaborate on a story with her.

How can I resist someone who learned Zen from a Golden Retriever?  Or has such a good story idea?

This is the story of an amazing women, who died this year at the age of 98.  She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times and never received it.

Warsaw Ghetto name is Irena Sendler and she was a social service worker in Nazi occupied Poland.  She was directly responsible for saving the lives of 2500 Jewish children.

How she accomplished this feat is simply astounding, and reads like something out of myth or legend.  But she was just ordinary person who was on a mission.  Irena Sendler was a hero, but she never wanted to be called that, she said: “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

Because she was a social worker, she had unlimited access to turberulosis contaminated areas.  Using this freedom, she persuaded Jewish parents to let her hide her children so they wouldn’t be deported to work camps.

You can imagine that Poland was crawling with SS guards so she had to be extremely careful.  She smuggled the children in ambulances (pretending they had typhus or TB), in burlap sacks – even in tool boxes and caskets.  She even trained her dog to bark constantly when she was questioned by guards so the guards wouldn’t hear the children crying.


maghinShe placed the rescued children with Christian families and gave them new names and identities.  But she didn’t want them to be forgotten, so she placed their real identities in a jar and buried it in her backyard under an apple tree.

When the gestapo caught up with her she was brutally tortured.  They broke her legs and feet by beating her with wooden clubs.  She was scheduled to be executed, but bribed a guard for her release.

When she was free she went back to the apple tree and dug up the jar, intent on piecing together again the lives of these children.  She found that most of their parents had been killed at the camp at Treblinka.

The credit for getting the word out about Irena Sendler goes to a high school history teacher in Kansas.  She encouraged her students to investigate an obscure clipping about Sendler.  Inspired, the students just ran with it.  They wrote a play, Life in a Jar, which has been performed over 250 times – first in the US, then throughout Canada and Europe.

Where once this story was rooted in darkness, it has now grown many limbs and flourishes in many forms.

The story picks up again over at Harmony Thiessen’s site, Golden Zen, on Saturday.  Please drop by Harmony’s site to see what form the story will take.

Thank you very much.

Update:  Harmony has had an emergency with her dog so she could not post the continuation of the story on her blog.  She will get to it as soon as possible.  Please send her your well wishes.  Thanks for stopping by.

You May also Like:

Lesson Plan: The Holocaust. Or was it?


Views: 3

24 thoughts on “The Tree of Life”

  1. What a woman! Thank you Ellen for joining with me to tell her story. So many people think they can’t change the world, because really…who are they? Saturday we will talk about what kind of a difference a person – any person can make in the world. PS. You did such a good job!

    Harmonys last blog post..The Power Broker Bust (pt 2 of 4)

  2. Wow, she was an amazing woman! And I’ve never heard of her. Thanks for starting the story here Ellen. It makes me appreciate all that I have, and the quality of life that not everyone has had. Irena Sendler really made an impact on the lives of many. A story well worth spreading.

    Lances last blog post..Spread Your Wings and Fly

  3. @Writer Dad – People like Irena Sendler show us, tell us, that we need to stand up to evil. In so many ways. Little evils often turn into big evils.

    @Vered – I’m grateful you’re here, Rose Lion.

    @Harmony – Thank you again for contacting me about this story. I’m looking forward to reading the continuation. I understand her spirit. How could she do any different?

    Of course people can change the world. Who ARE we anyway! Haha!

    I bow to you in continuation.

  4. I read this on

    Al Gore beat Irena out for the Nobel Prize.

    Al Gore.

    A millionaire and self-acclaimed expert who made the lecture circuit talking about Global Warming.

    They gave the prize to HIM.

    Instead of someone who risked torture and death, repeatedly, in order to save 2500 strangers.

    I don’t really know what else to say…It boggles the mind.

  5. Ellen, you got me all choked up on this one. My American grandfather who was a lawyer is a little hero as well, falling in love with my grandmother on a trip to Germany, he brought her and her 4 siblings to America in 1938, I think… and hence, here I am today to wreak havoc. Many of my ancestors were killed, children. Some adults went into the first camps and actually survived, but of course they had to restart their lives from scratch.

    My grandmother went Catholic and refused to speak about it; did the whole Christmas tree thing. In America, she was prejudiced again for the opposite reason of her homeland — because she had a thick German accent. When she was 100 and months away from dying I was visiting her at the old home, we sat in a service together and the bastards wouldn’t even give her a full round circle of Jesus’ skin, she only got a quarter because she wasn’t pure or some crap… after a lifetime of practice.

    Many think USA is heading down this path again (as the bad guys this time) and the wealthy young folks are migrating away from the US.

    Friar, well put. Very sad. Lots of things in the world that should be based on merit seem to be more influenced by popularity. Maybe Al gave a special donation.

    screenwritingforhollywoods last blog post..Sunday Picture Post 29 / Born Ready

  6. @Friar – I think Irena should have got the prize, too.

    @Jaden – Well, you know I’m glad you are here to wreak havok!

    I hope the US is not going to head down this path, but only time will tell. So far the US has gotten into an extremely BAD spot in the Middle East. Of course I do not agree with it, never have, and I only hope we can get out soon.

    I’m getting extremely antsy with this election, and I hope it will turn out for the best. I hope the war will end.

  7. Lance,

    Yeah I agree with you whole heartedly about appreciating what I have. And because I do have some things, some knowledge, I can share with others.

    There are quite a few stories out there about amazing people like this that many people haven’t heard of.

  8. It’s amazing how many people just shrugged their shoulders as this was going on and thought “Oh, this is horrible, but there’s nothing I can do”, while others risked their life and underwent torture in order to actually do something to help. The dog barking so that the guards couldn’t hear the children crying in the caskets just broke my heart. I’ll make sure to stop by Harmony’s blog tomorrow.

    Marelisas last blog post..Three Awesome Productivity Tips

  9. Hi Ellen – Thank you for sharing this story. She was a hero, wasn’t she? She definitely should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize. Her actions show how much each of us can do if we put our mind to it.

    I’ll be watching Harmony’s blog for the continuation of the story. You’ve done excellent on part 1.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Updates – Time Tracking – Open Mic

  10. @Kim – I have nothing against Al Gore, but I never knew about Irena Sendler.

    @Steph – Yes, it is really sad, but inspiring too. I cried when I wrote it, thinking about all these people.

    @Melissa – People like this inspire me too learn more about them also.

    @Barbara – I’m glad I could help spread the word about this story.

    @Marelisa – I’m glad you stopped by to read the story. I don’t know what happened over at Harmony’s house, but as soon as I see that she has posted the story I will update my blog indicating that she has wrote the post. Hope she’s alright. I’ll send her and email.

  11. Hi Ellen – what an amazing story. This woman no doubt saved all those children from death. And still she managed to escape, even after she was tortured and beaten. I wonder if this story will be made into a film? I’m off to read the second part now. Thanks for sharing – you come up with some unique stuff on here.

  12. Ellen, I am so deeply moved by this story. I followed the thread to Harmony’s blog and now sit here filled with emotion and near tears. Thank you for spotlighting this courageous woman and reminding us all that yes we can make a difference. Our lives are (or should be) so much more than what we do for a living, where we live or the sum of our bank accounts. Our hearts are the most valuable thing in our lives and a willingness to open them to others has an impact far greater than any asset we can ever own.

    Karen Swims last blog post..Thankful Thursday

  13. A very uplifting story! Thank you for sharing this, true selflessness. Irene Sendler did not become famous but she died knowing she did the best she could with her gifts. That is all the accolades that really matters, your own celebration of self.

  14. @Cath – This story would make an excellent film. I hope it is made into one. Great screenplay idea.

    @Harmony – Hope everything is going well with you! I’ll be by soon to check up on you. Thanks for stopping in again.

    @Axe City – I’m glad you liked my article idea. I do like publishing pieces like this when there are so many depressing stories out there. I think it adds hope to our lives.

    @Evelyn – Yes, I wish stories like this weren’t obscure. I don’t understand why they are, but apparently the mainstream media is not picking up on them. I will do my best to honor courageous people like this. They definitely deserve mention.

    @Karen – Thank you for your wonderful words my friend. You have a way with words you know.

    @Urban – I don’t know how I would react either. I really don’t know if it’s something we could plan for except to live the best lives possible and then maybe it would come second nature to help others like this.

    @Miruh – I like how you put that, “you own celebration of self.” A self in doing, in helping others.

Comments are closed.