People that should never be forgotten: Batgrl commentary - When Jpgs Try and Do History

Reblogged from Susana "Lost in Fantasy Land":

[Text that follows via batgrl, image to follow text is what keeps getting reblogged. Reblogging here isn't something horrific - it's just that each time I see this image I sigh and - well, read the following.]


So this jpg on Irena Sendler is going around again - this is the third or fourth time I've seen in in the past - actually I forget how long, it's been a couple of years at least. (It's a long image so I've hidden it after the page break.)


I should state right now that I don't feel annoyed at anyone sharing it (it's a story that should be shared) - my annoyance is specifically at the person who made this jpg and how they ruined it by concluding Irena's story by bringing up an award that Irena didn't win. (I don't expect everyone to immediately do history research over a jpg, that's just something I do myself, mainly because I'm looking for book on the subject.) Irena Sendler was a person who quietly did amazing things for others and deserves to be paid tribute to. But a tribute with a snarky ending trying to make a political point about a prize and what actions are more worthy of such a prize - well those lines ruin the spirit of the gesture, which should be all about Irena. It's also the kind of comparison that Irena Sendler, as I've come to know her though reading about her, would have been the last person to have made herself. She did not do what she did for an award or recognition, in fact recognition was never something she sought in any account of her life or her words. (Because she only died in 2008, her story is documented through many interviews - so we have her own words for most of this.) To reduce this to snark about the one award she didn't get is to trivialize what she did, and it's a great example of "how not to write an ending for a tribute." (Hello authors, the last sentences of your work contain the thoughts you leave your reader with, and we'll assume you think that's most important.)


There's a lot of this sort of "only a bit of the story" image-with-words being shared, and honestly if you love books and the written word you should care about this. Noble actions should be praised but with respect for the person, not to make a political point about something else entirely. I'm just as adamant about all the jpgs of quotes by famous authors that don't give any sources for the quote - more and more of those quotes are incorrectly cited, or were never actually said/written by the author. If it's so important to remember people, let's at least try and use quotes that are real, as well history that's accurate. Er, I'll get off the soapbox now. (I'm the kid of multiple generations of teachers. This happens to me every now and then.)


My only wish is that more of the story of Irena was shared, and that links and history were the main focus. So here's some of that, and part of it involves studying history in American public schools.


Wikipedia: Irena Sendler

Snopes: Irena Sendler

PBS Documentary: Irena Sendler: In The Name of Their Mothers


One of the reasons I know about her is because when I first saw this jpg I did some googling, because the information in it isn't enough. I wanted to know more. (I wanted a book!) And I found the story of the play Life in a Jar. Because Irena's story had been out in the media, but it hadn't spread terribly far. In 1999 some Kansas students were doing research for National History Day and thus learned about Irena thanks to a 1994 article in US News & World Report (while her story wasn't well known in the US, it was in Poland and Israel, in the 1960s: see awards). From that history project, and thanks to having the right kind of history teacher, the students put together a play about Irena's actions titled Life in a Jar. Irena heard about the students' play, which they performed at schools across the country. In 2001 some of the students who'd written the play and their history teacher traveled to Poland to meet Irena.


You can learn more about how the Life in the Jar project grew on their website, here. It used to have much more information than Irena's wikipedia page, but that's changed, thankfully. They have several pages that address questions: Facts About Irena, FAQ (If you read those you'll find that the jpg over-simplifies the story, but hey, it's a jpg, not a book substitute.)


Enough misinformation about Irena has popped up on various websites that the Life in a Jar website has the following text at the end of the About the Project page:

"Irena was not German as is being mentioned on so many incorrect web sites. As you can read above, she was Polish. FYI-our web site is based on hundreds of interviews with primary sources and a dozen interviews with Irena, plus over fifty letters from Irena and 4,000 pages of total research. Much gratitude is given to two of the children for information, Renata Zajdman and Elzbieta Ficowska. Be careful with some web sites and their incorrect information.


***Numerous internet websites have posted much incorrect information. Irena was not German, she didn't know the Nazis' plans, she was not a plumbing specialist (she was a social worker), most of the children saved were not babies, she used a tool box several times at most, the truck wasn't hers, her legs were fractured, her arms were not broken, the dog was only used a few times, her name was Irena not Iliana and there are several other mistakes. The Nobel Peace Prize is given for achievement during the past several years, Irena knew this and asked not to be nominated. The Nobel Committee encouraged her nomination to give her more recognition.  She was a big fan of Al Gore."


There's also a new (well, to me on this visit) page just about the Nobel nomination. I think both of those pages pretty well sum up the Nobel issue.


Meanwhile I'm now wondering if this is some kind of reminder that I've had the Life in a Jar book on my Want to Read shelf for eons? Ok, two years this next November 13, to be accurate.




We should all strive to be like her.