Remembering in November… Irena Sendler

Photo of Irena SendlerIt’s pure serendipity that we’re touring a show about remembering in the month of remembrance, but its perfect all the same. This is Irena Sendler, who helped save the lives of over 2,500 babies and young children, by risking her own life – over and over again.

Irena was not just brave, she was clever. During World War II, she became a plumber, working in the sewers around the Warsaw Ghetto. She had a van – because plumbers need a van – and there was a noisy Alsatian dog sitting in the back. (Remember the dog too – he also did his bit in all this). Sewers are smelly places, of course, so no one is going to want to get too close to you if you work in them, and the German guards kept their distance.

So Irena would go and work in the smelly sewers, and on the way out, she would collect a small bundle, which she often managed to slip in to the big tool box she carried. If the bundle made gurgling noises or cries, like a baby might, the dog’s barking covered the sound. Of course, no one wants to get too close to a big noisy dog, and the German soldiers didn’t check the back of the van.

In this way, Irena and her colleagues saved enough lives to create a new generation. Imagine that. When she was caught, they broke both her arms and both her legs – try and imagine that. But they did not kill her. Some one paid for Irena’s name to be taken off the “death list”. So maybe some credit has to go to an unknown German guard, who presumably risked his own safety to ensure she lived.

Irena’s is just one of dozens of incredible stories we’ve been given to make Patchwork Lives. They can’t all go in the play, but we try to pass them on in other ways… I’ve worried lately that there aren’t as many great female role models as there seemed to be when I was younger, but there are of course. You just have to remember, and tell their stories. Which is what we’re doing in November. Here are the details – come and share some stories… and remember.

Lowdham Village Hall, Saturday Nov 2nd, 7pm, Radcliffe Hall, Saturday Nov 9th, 7pm, Queniborough Village Hall, Saturday Nov 16th, 7pm, St John’s Church, Carrington, Saturday Nov 30th, 7pm.

Tickets available at




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