Irena Sendler (1910–2008) social worker, nurse and humanitarian, was part of the Polish Underground Resistance during the Second World War. From 1935 to October 1943, she worked for the Department of Social Welfare and Public Health in Warsaw, using her position to covertly help rescue Jews. She participated in smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them with false identity documents and finding them shelter with Polish families, orphanages or other care facilities such as convents. She saved over 2,500 children from the Holocaust. From October 1943 she headed the Żygota, the children’s section, of the Polish Council to Aid Jews, but was arrested by the Gestapo. She hid the names and locations of the Jewish children, however, preventing this information from falling into Gestapo hands. Although tortured, Sendler never revealed anything about her work or the location of the rescued children. She was sentenced to death but escaped on the day of her execution, because the Żygota bribed German officials to release her. Next day the Germans announced she had been shot and Sendler read the posters!
In 1965, she was recognised by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations and she received many decorations including the Gold Cross of Merit (1946) for saving Jews. The Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honour was awarded late in her life for her wartime humanitarian efforts. Sendler lived in Warsaw for the remainder of her life and is buried in Warsaw’s Powazki Cemetery.
The Institute of National Remembrance largely funded the statue and offered it to Newark-on-Trent because of its connections with Poland. Many Polish airmen were stationed there during the Second World War and it is home to a significant number of Polish war graves. Former Polish Prime Minister of Władysław Sikorski was also buried at Newark Cemetery for a time.
Location: Fountain Gardens, London Road, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.