The Year of Irena Sendler – a summary of POLIN Museum's activities

Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 14th December 2018
2018 is coming to an end. The year was filled with events relating to its patron – Irena Sendler (1910–2008), Righteous Among the Nations and an Honorary Citizen of the State of Israel. Throughout Poland, her story was recalled. Lessons, workshops, lectures and the painting of murals were organised, each telling her story. Schools and public spaces were named in her honour. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews also took part in these activities, preparing many educational, exhibition and internet activities directed, in particular, at students and their teachers.

People can be divided into good and bad – irrespective of race, irrespective of nationality and irrespective of religion” – Irena Sendler

The “Year of Irena Sendler” was proclaimed by the Polish parliament (the Sejm) on 8th June 2017, at the request of the Children's Ombudsman, Marek Michalak, so as to “pay homage to a lady who, with the greatest dedication, worked to save her fellow man”. This statement was contained in the motion passed by members of the Sejm. This initiative was linked to the tenth anniversary of Irena Sendler's passing – 12th May 2018.

Educational Activities

Joining in with the Year of Irena Sendler activities, POLIN Museum prepared an array of educational activities aimed, in particular, at students, teachers and educators, as well as teaching methodologists regarding Polish-Jewish relations during World War II. The POLIN Museum's Educational Centre invited school groups to take part in “We Remember Irena Sendler” workshops. Teachers and adults were invited to “How to Teach About the Righteous?” and  “Helping Jews During World War Two – Stories, Contexts, Questions” courses. There were also workshops for seniors and guided city walks though “Irena Sendler's Warsaw”

On 25th–27th October, the Museum organised an international conference entitled “How Jto Discuss the Righteous? Representations in Culture, Meanings in Education”. Both the Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari and the Uited States Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher participated in the conference opening. Specialists invited included Dr. Stephen D. Smith – Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation and UNESCO Genocide Education Chairman, Stanlee Stahl – Vice-President of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, Dr. Piotr Forecki – Political Culture Department lecturer at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and Dr. Agnieszka Haska – a researcher from the Centre of Holocaust Research at IFIS Polish Academy of Science. 

During the October conference, the Centre for Civic Education and the “Children of the Holocaust in Poland” Association presented the Irena Sendler “Repairing the World” Award. Presented annually to teachers, this year it was won by Mirosław Skrzypczyk.

In addition, this year's commemoration of the 76th Anniversary of the Establishment of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews in POLIN Museum was dedicated to Council activists involved in the saving of Jewish children, focussing particularly on Irena Sendler. During an event with young people, Elżbieta Ficowska told the story of her own rescue from the Warsaw ghetto and of her personal post-War relationship with irena Sendler.

Internet and Exhibition Activities

In order to make it easier for teachers to independently prepare school lessons on Irena Sendler, POLIN Museum and the Centre for Civic Education have prepared special educational material dedicated to the Righteous and adapted to different age groups. 


Download educational materials (only in Polish) »

Celebrate the “Year of Irena Sendler” in your school!


In February, marking the Irena Sendler's 108th birthday, the POLIN Museum presented artefacts from its collections which were donated, in 2013, by Irena Sendler's daughter, Janina Zgrzembska. The Righteous Among the Nations medal, presented to Irena Sendler in 1965, was on display in the Museum's main hall, while the Historical Information Centre showed the Order of the White Eagle presented to her, in 2003, by Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

On 12th May, marking the 10th Anniversary of Irena Sendler's passing, the Polish Righteous website (sprawiedliwi.org.pl) published a new page entirely dedicated to her story. The page features her biography, information about her co-workers, how her memory is preserved in both Poland and Israel, artefacts from POLIN Museum collection, as well as educational and source materials.


Read Irena Sendler's story »

Read about her co-workers and view artefacts from POLIN Museum collection.