Irena Sendler memorabilia

Irena Sendler memorabilia have become a part of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews’ collection thanks to Janina Zgrzembska, Irena Sendler’s daughter. In 2009 and in 2013, she donated to the Museum a collection of medals and decorations, together with documents, books and letters which her mother had received from around the world. Amongst those who had written to her were children, adults, politicians and public officials.

In 2009, the Museum received Irena Sendler’s Order of the White Eagle, her Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta, as well as the decoration which Sendler described as the nicest – the Order of the Smile – which had been presented to her by children. Among documentation which was donated are documents relating to the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Sendler was twice submitted – in 2007 and in 2008 – as well as letters of support and petitions supporting the initiative signed by twelve thousand people.

In May 2013, on the occasion of an alley, next to the Museum, being named in Sendler’s honour, more items were added to the Museum’s collection. They included Irena Sendler’s “Righteous Among the Nations” medal and certificate, awarded by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, her Honorary Citizenship of the State of Israel and her Honorary Citizenship of the city of Otwock, including the key to the city gates.

The Yad Vashem Institute honoured Irena Sendler with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 1965. During a visit to Israel in 1983, Sendler planted an olive tree sapling in the Garden of the Righteous.

A tree on a mountain in Jerusalem is even more than a monument. The monument could be destroyed, and the Memorial Tree will always grow. 

Her Yad Vashem medal sits in a display case in the main hall of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Irena Sendler received the Order of the Smile on 11th April 2007. The honour was at the initiative of Szymon Płóciennik, at the time fifteen-years-old. In accordance with tradition, at the award presentation, Sendler was required to drink lemon juice, while the gathering of children looked to ensure that she did not wince. During the Irena Sendler's Year in 2018, POLIN Museum was also placing the Order on display to the public.

The collection of memorabilia also contains many items from children in schools named in Irena Sendler’s honour. The students’ work includes posters, badges and even match-boxes featuring this Righteous lady’s image.

Karolina Dzięciołowska / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, May 2018
The article is based on: bibliography

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