Irena Sendler
                                            Childhood, Family and Early Life 
                                                         “If you see someone drowning, you
                           must jump in and try to save them, even
                   if you don’t know how to swim.”
- Words of Irena’s father


On February 15th, 1910 born into a Catholic family, Irena Krzyzanowki (later became Sendler when she married her first husband) was born. She was born in Warsaw Poland. Irena and her family moved to the town of Otwock in Poland (a town about 15 miles southeast of Warsaw), where Irena grew up. 


           Growing up, Irena was lonely because she was an only child. Irena’s father Stanislaw Krzyzanowki was a doctor and was the first Polish Socialist. Stanislaw learned his tolerance of others from his father who led a rebellion against the Czar. Her father raised her by teaching her to love and respect people regardless of their ethnicity or social status. (It is through these beliefs that Irena was choragus enough to put her life in danger in order to save over two thousand Jewish children during the Holocaust.) Dr. Krzyzanowki not only preached this to his daughter, but only lived by it too. Many of his patients were poor Jews, who at the time no other doctor would see. In 1917 a Typhus epidemic broke out. Irena’s father was once again the only doctor that stayed in the area of Otwock to treat the sick. While treating the poor Jewish patients with Typhus, Irena’s dad developed Typus as well. At the age of seven Irena’s father was dying.  His last words to his daughter were “if you see someone drowning, you must jump in and try to save them, even if you don’t know how to swim.”  These words stayed with Irena throughout her life.  


                 Irena and her mother eventually returned to Warsaw.  Irena attended Warsaw University.  She was dismissed from the University for failing to comply with Jewish segregation laws. The ghetto-bench system stated that Jewish students were forced to sit in the left section of a lecture halls otherwise they would be expelled. This was considered a display of anti-Semitism. Irena had strong loyalties towards her Jewish friends. In the 1930’s Irena stood up and went to sit on the Jewish side of the classroom.  When the teacher told her to move she replied I am Jewish today.” This lead to her being immediately expelled.  (Decades later, under Communist rule her son and daughter were not allowed to attend the Warsaw University due to Irena’s actions.) A year later Irena was admitted back to the University where she completed her



            Shortly after completing her studies Irena married her first husband Mieczyslaw Sendler. Sendler would be the name she kept for the remainder of her life. Sadly this marriage did not last long and Irena and Mieczyslaw got divorced shortly after the war. Irena got remarried to Stefan Zgzembski, who see met during the years in the underground.  Irena and Stefan had three children (two boys and one girl). One of the sons died a few days after he was born. Their other son, Adam, died of heart disease on September 23, 1999 (which was the same day that a few High School students uncovered Irena’s untold heroic stories). Adam’s daughter (Irena’s granddaughter), Agniesa, today is the same age as the High School girls previously mentioned.  Irena’s daughter, Janka, still lives in Warsaw, Poland and has a daughter. In the early 1960’s Irena husband Stefan passed away with heart disease like his son Adam.


           Through Irena’s upbringing and her fathers influence in her early years, Irena developed a strong believe for compassion toward different people. It is through these beliefs that Irena was able to accomplish the heroic deeds that she did for others.  




                                    Sub Topics:
1- Introduction                             2- EarlyChildhood                                                  3 -World War II & the role Irena Played
4- Post War                                  5- Conclusion                                                                      6- Bibliography