Sunday, 7 July 2013

Workshop as a tool to raise awareness on diversity among Roma people in Poland

By HIA Fellows: Ankur Doshi, Katarzyna Klimowicz and Nara Narimanova

 One of the highlights of our experience in the HIA Poland’s program was the output phase – the ability for us fellows to actively learn about human rights issues in Poland. The output phase began with a three-day training. The aim of the training was to provide the fellows with the opportunity to enhance a wide array of skills. It also gave us a chance to meet our group members and focus on a given topic.

Participants were divided into seven smaller groups, each focusing on a unique human rights issue: Jewish Rights/Issues, Jan Karski, Irena Sendler, Roma Rights/Issues, Asylum Seeker/Migrant Rights, Rights of People with Disabilities and Rights of LGBTQ Persons.

Our group consisted of three people, Kasia Klimowicz, Ankur Doshi and Nara Narimanova, and our task was to create a workshop on Roma issues for Polish youth from ages 16-19. It was rather difficult to come up with specific ideas of the workshop, but the three of us knew what we wanted to do – we wanted to create a tool to educate the students on Roma history, culture, and connected Human Rights issues in Poland, to raise awareness about diversity among the Roma ethnic group, and to help students in identifying and intervening on discriminatory behaviors.
As we started our research, we quickly found out that the Roma population faces discrimination and racism in many aspects of society, and many of them do not have access to proper healthcare, education, or political representation. We also discovered that many people in Polish society hold biases against the Roma community. In our workshop, we knew that we would have to bring these issues up to the Polish pupils. Although in the beginning we wanted to make a video documenting Roma people in Poland, we realized that it was best for us to focus on creating a simple, influential, and effective workshop that would allow the Polish pupils to reconsider the biases they may hold against the Roma.

We learned that there are many organizations in Poland that help bring awareness to Roma issues. We specifically met one of the representatives from the Karta Centre, Agnieszka Kudełka, who helped us obtain more information and resources. She was a great help!

Halfway through the output phase, we presented our project to the HIA Poland team. The meeting was held together with other group, so that we could compare our work and learn from each other’s progress. More or less our team received good recommendations, but we still needed to polish our workshop, including preparing the presentation, writing case studies, creating questions for the brainstorm game, drafting an essay (4 pages long) on the Human Rights issues affecting the Roma community, and preparing a blog entry together with photographs taken during the process within the given deadline.

With lots of work still left, we decided to work individually by dividing the duties and responsibilities. Thus, everything was prepared within the deadline. During the Output Phase, we learned a lot about Roma issues, creating a workshop, and meeting deadlines. Overall, we also had a lot of fun working together as well!

More information to follow-up on this topic in our another blog post:
Overcoming Barriers...of Stereotypes

Friday, 5 July 2013

Shifting Frameworks in Hopes of Shifting Perspectives: LGBTQ Education in the Polish Context

By HIA Fellows: Sarah Deal, Justyna Politanska, Anastasiia Mikhaylova

The half-burnt rainbow sculpture in Plac Zbawiciela
Photo by Sarah Deal

An Overview
Sarah Deal

A dynamic trio consisting of an American, Ukrainian, and Pole, our group set out to discuss the state of LGBTQ rights in Poland as they have evolved from the Holocaust to today.  Our assignment: to create a 90-minute high school workshop for Polish students, ages 16-18, tying together LGBTQ rights, polish history, and (of course) a take-away message for the students. 

At first, none of us knew exactly how we would create a curriculum on such a sensitive and contentious subject in Poland. Unlike the other assigned topics, the perceptions of LGBTQ rights in Poland are intricately influenced and intertwined with Catholic faith and beliefs about morality. The official Catholic position maintains that homosexual behavior is a sin and that marriage should be between a man and woman only. Given that almost 90% of Poles are still registered members of the Roman Catholic Church, most LGBTQ-related NGOs and activists told us that one of their biggest struggles relates to getting access to schools for educational activities and awareness campaigns. Thus, we spent the first several days determining how we could create a curriculum that would respect the beliefs of the typical polish students while simultaneously challenging them to think about facts and arguments they may have not yet considered.
After much brainstorming, researching, and discussion, we finally came to the conclusion that the key to creating the broadest appeal possible for educators and students was to reframe the issue as one about discrimination and inequalities stemming from the Holocaust. We were not looking to change minds or convince students that they should support LGBTQ values, but rather that they should support equal rights for all people whose rights are guaranteed in the Constitution—regardless of whether their values are in line with each other. In this way, we would be able to discuss forms of discrimination against LGBTQ communities that have carried over from the German Nazi state, creating a platform for discussion and education about what it means to support human rights and equality, without committing one to also support LGBTQ sexual practices.

    Determined to create an educational and engaging workshop, we worked together and independently to create a comprehensive, yet focused, curriculum that could be used by instructors in Poland (and around the world!) to educate high school students about LGBTQ rights as a sector of human rights. In the end, we created a workshop timetable for the instructor and PowerPoint presentation for the students, as well as our own PowerPoint presentation used to present our research and curriculum at our very own official HIA Ted-x presentation at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. 

    Despite the challenges of determining a sensitive yet fun lesson plan, and one that had to fit into 90 minutes(!), our group enjoyed the experience of working in an international team and being challenged to tackle a difficult subject. We learned a great deal about not only the historical and present-day state of LGBTQ issues in Poland, but also about different ways of sensitively addressing these issues to people who may not share the same ideology or cultural background.
    Discussing these challenges and their overall experience, Anastasiia and Justyna offer their personal reflections on the process below.

Thoughts and Reflections
Anastasiia Mikhaylova and Justyna Politanska

Choosing LGBTQ issues as our workshop scenario topic, all three of us knew this is going to be a challenging task. Touching upon such subject in a progressive, but still rather conservative country like Poland needs a lot of preparation and a professional approach. We did not want our output to lie somewhere on the shelf, but we wanted it to be used to contribute to changing the situation of LGBTQ people for the better.

Through the actual working process, our team became good friends while taking on the task of determining the right way to incorporate our personal perceptions and opinions into one solid project that would help to advance LGBTQ rights in Poland. Being passionate about something often means having individual agenda, but our team members were always willing to discover new praxes and different angles of the issue. We also learned a lot: Anastasiia and Sarah had the difficult task of diving into such a specific topic concerning a foreign country. However, even Justyna discovered some new facts and trends that she did not know about her own country. This project helped Justyna to realize that living in the capital city had given her a certain approach to issues such as minority rights, which many Poles living outside Warsaw do not have.

The issue of LGBTQ rights protection is a very important sphere of contemporary Polish discourse but at the same time many conditions should be met in order to succeed in development of general tolerance and understanding of every person’s rights and need for equality in Poland. Our mission was basically to come up with a creative but in the same time professional way of how to present LGBTQ rights as human and civil rights, how to make students talk about the issue and make them find solutions to many problems related to the subject. We believe choosing to place LGBTQ people’s rights on the same level as all the other people in Poland, portraying them as human and, thus, deserving of equal treatment was a good choice and a good starting point for further discussion.

It has been a great experience for all of us also because we were assigned into multi-cultural groups and had to work on our project/assignments together. Every member of the team contributed their own knowledge and experience. We are optimistic that our output will contribute to the development of LGBTQ discussion within Polish society, as well as it will provide educators with tools for introducing this topic in educational institutions.

You are eager to explore this topic more? We have another post for you:
Balancing Hope with Realism: The Struggle for Equality in Poland's LGBTQ Community

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Disability Rights in Poland: An Account of our Process of Discovery

By HIA Fellows: Jan Świątek, Mariana Pryven, Cariad Chester

Our blog is a day-by-day recounting of the journey that led us to produce our workshop and focus on autism within the spectrum of physical and mental disabilities. We hope you enjoy a window into our creative process and learn a thing or two along the way.

14/Jun/2013 - Day 1: Our team met for the first time and we immediately began discussing how to narrow our focus within the field of disability rights. We were initially interested in building
a workshop that addressed the challenges people with physical disabilities face in everyday life. We felt like students would easily see the injustice in situations where people with disabilities could not access public spaces or buildings. Drawing attention to the need for more access ramps, elevators, and disability accommodations presented a variety of opportunities for engaging workshop ideas. However, upon further discussion, we decided to try to focus on mental and intellectual disabilities because one of our team members, Jan Świątek, has a sister with autism. While focusing on autism, we hoped our workshop would serve to generate conversation around the rights for people with disabilities in a way that included both physical and mental/intellectual disabilities. After an hour and a half of research on different mental disabilities, we agreed that autism would actually be an ideal (but dauntingly complex) way to focus our presentation. The societal position of people with autism provides a valuable lens through which to analyze the broader concept of rights for people with disabilities. Autism is poorly understood in Polish society (and globally) and we hoped to simultaneously raise awareness about the disorder while facilitating a discussion on disability rights.

15/Jun/2013 - Day 2: Our day of training focused on the importance of including different learning modalities in our workshop. Different learning modalities would not only help a wider audience of students engage with our material, but would also force us to be creative in how we presented our information. We began brainstorming a list of different exercises and games that we could include in the workshops. Our favorite idea was an exercise that had the students participate in a mock press conference at the end of the workshop. Primarily, the press conference allows students the opportunity to develop public speaking skills and helps them learn to articulate their positions in response to questions. We ended the day by comparing notes on the resources on autism that we had individually found. We were struggling to find quantitative information on the challenges that people with autism face. However, our personal understandings of the disorder have improved dramatically.

17/Jun/2013 – Day 4: After multiple days of online research, we began contacting people who work on disability rights professionally. Magda Szarota, one of the leaders of the Association of Women with Disabilities, advised us to reach out to two NGOs in Poland known for their work on autism. In the process of researching the NGOs, we learned that autism, and not autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is still the dominant name used by advocacy organizations when discussing the disorder. We wonder how often the distinction is made between autism, ASD, and other developmental delays (e.g. PDD-NOS). Unfortunately, we suspect discussions of autism rarely receive the nuance they deserve. Finally, we emailed a Polish specialist on autism, Professor Ewa Pistula of Warsaw University, and expressed interest in interviewing her. We also discussed the possibility of incorporating visual media into the presentation. After screening different YouTube videos on autism, we settled on two videos produced by the Synapsis Foundation. The videos attempt to depict the experiences and perceptions of someone with autism as they navigate public transport.

18/Jun/2013 – Day 5:
After the morning presentation and reflecting on the feedback, we continued developing our workshop. We have begun working on how to categorize the different barriers that people with autism face in Polish society. In our workshop, we hope to address both structural barriers and the barriers created by confusion and misunderstanding of what it means to have autism. We have created a possible structure for our workshops build around these aims. In the first workshop, we will present both an internal and external perspective on autism and attempt to provide a basic understanding on what it is like to have autism. The second workshop will attempt to have the students think about how access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities may be restricted for people with autism. We are also interested in incorporating the UN Convention on the Right for Peoples with Disabilities into the workshop and specifically addressing the articles that enumerate rights on education, health, and employment. This might prove too time intensive or intellectually demanding for our target audience and limited schedule, but at the very least, the research was an important step in our personal understanding of disability rights.

19/Jun/2013 – Day 6: We heard back from the Synapsis Foundation and scheduled an interview with the Advocacy Team Manager, Dr. Agnieszka Rymsza. In preparation for the interview, we began gathering a list of questions for Dr. Rymsza. The questions focus on the barriers that people with autism face in Polish society and the role of NGOs in effecting societal change. The rest of the day was spent completing the PowerPoint presentation for our workshop and drafting the structure of our paper.

20/Jun/2013 – Day 7: Our team traveled to Southern Warsaw to conduct our interview with Dr. Rymsza. She was very inspiring and graciously answered all of our questions over a two-hour period. The general impression from the interview was that the state of autism in Poland is an example of profound injustice, but incremental improvements are being made by successful lobbying efforts. Dr. Rymsza provided useful information on what she perceives as the largest barriers people with autism face and also discussed her advocacy efforts. Hearing Dr. Rymsza list the legal battles that have been won was inspiring; the Synapsis Foundation is a powerful testament to the potential impact of a committed NGO. Dr. Rymsza also connected us with Alina Perzanowska, President of the “Community of Hope” Foundation. We had previously read about the “Community of Hope” Foundation in the context of their work launching The Life Farm,
a holistic center for people with autism. From what we can tell, the Farm is the only organization of its kind in Poland and a compelling alternative to traditional treatment. The Farm is
a permanent residential establishment for people with autism and in addition to providing treatment and a positive social environment, employs the residents in farming organic produce. We scheduled an interview with Ms. Perzanowska for tomorrow morning and began preparing
a list of questions for her.

21/Jun/2013 – Day 8: We began the day with a presentation of our workshop to the HIA Poland staff and Marta Brzezińska-Hubert, a multicultural trainer and facilitator of learning. The feedback we received was instrumental in aligning the focus of our workshop with the goals of HIA. We are confident we can incorporate the feedback we received into our workshop and make it stronger.

22/Jun/2013 – Day 9: Continued writing our paper. We focused on reformatting our presentation to improve the link between the human rights atrocities of World War II and the contemporary situation of people with disabilities in Polish society.

24/Jun/2013 - Day 10: Our team met to make the final revisions. We also had to determine what to leave in the workshop and what to remove, accounting for time, target audience and our aims. We focused on the element of empowerment and introduced a task of drafting a law to counteract the World War II discrimination against people with disabilities. The exercise will serve as a link between the past discriminations and the human rights education. An excerpt from the UN Convention of 2006 will be presented after the students’ ideas and will show them the full range of the rights promised to the people with disabilities. Students will then be divided into groups and work on creating more detailed laws addressing the areas of education, health care, and the labor market. The paper will complement our second workshop and also serve as a valuable resource to provide more information on the topic. We look forward to our presentation and hope that our efforts are well received.

Very interested in this topic? We have a related blog post for you:

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

‘All hope abandon, ye who workshop prepare!’

By HIA Fellows: Małgorzata Darmas, Krzysztof Jankowski, and Jeffrey Treisbach
‘All hope abandon, ye who workshop prepare!’ - this phrase perfectly describes our feelings about work we were to conduct while we realize that it is definitely not THAT easy as it could appear at glance. Well, the intellectual adventure we went through did not appear to be that picturesque as the one Dante has experienced, but believe us - it was quite close. Let the journey begin!

We were very satisfied with our assignment; the topic was briefly described as ‘Asylum seekers/migrants’. Full of enthusiasm, we started preparations. Our task was to come up with
a 90 minute workshop scenario for Polish high school students, which would root the issue in question in the history, refer to specific human rights and, most importantly, would be empowering for student to act – to take at least little steps towards making a difference. And this is where troubles began. How to introduce the topic, be specific, empowering and leave space for discussion and own ideas within 90 minutes? It proved to be extremely hard to combine all of those elements. For example, how to link a narrow topic with proper empowerment of students? It appears hard, at least at glance, to indicate what students could do in regard to trade of women for sexual slavery purposes to/from Poland. Furthermore, majority of issues we discussed at that stage of preparations could be addressed properly only by amending the legislative framework, what is (is it?) beyond power of an individual single man. Besides, we wanted to keep the topic as close to students’ day-to-day life as it can be. Otherwise, it could be perceived not as a real, serious affair, but rather as remote news on TV, which is even too remote to believe it.

The very first idea we had was to focus on the attitude Poles have towards migrants. We find it quite a real problem, as Poles, living in one of the most homogeneous European states, tend not to be familiar with the issue of migrants. Then we developed the other idea – we tried to focus on people being forced to labor when they emigrate from Poland, what is the topic of an extreme importance as existence of labor camps in contemporary Europe (including Poland) constitutes a huge danger for youth going abroad for a seasonal job. The topic proved to be too broad and after some trials to narrow it we finally decided to leave it behind. Some could say that we gave up too easily, but those first attempts helped us indeed to develop some tools, exercise and activities we could use in our workshop. At this stage we presented to the other fellows the exercise we had developed, aiming to make students curious and emotionally involved into the topic. During this activity student were given real job offers which can be found in any Polish newspaper. They were about collecting apples in France, tomatoes in Italy, etc. The questions to students about their imagination of the job based on its description followed. Finally, having them expressed their expectations about how the job would be, we presented some photos taken in a real Italian labor camp, showing that things are not always like they appear to be. We can proudly say that others really liked our exercise. Less proudly we need to add that the general idea of the workshop was subject to constructive criticism – and that was something we definitely needed. Being probably too excited about the ideas we had, we initially did not see obstacles and dangers we might face in case we went further while developing that workshop scenario. Being rich in some new experiences, with some new tools and ideas, learning on our own mistakes we started everything once again, just from scratch.
At that point we realized that one of our primary goals should be delivering knowledge. Topics we tried to address were all quite new to students. We are of view that people tend to be indifferent to issues that do not involve them personally. While discussing possible topics we discovered that there is something common for all them – the attitude people generally have towards migrants and asylum seekers. This attitude can be shortly described as indifference. And that was it. Bingo! We found something relevant from human rights’ perspective and something being close enough to students’ every day. But is indifference a problem? We are deeply convinced that it is indeed. Indifference means ignorance. Lack of knowledge. People often fear things they do not understand. Fear might have further implications, e.g. violence. Even though it is obviously not as easy as we describe it, indifference still remains the attitude underlying people’s behavior towards others and in this case – towards migrants. History is full of examples of how people’s indifference caused or did not stop the evil (e.g. history of the Holocaust). When we already had the core idea, then we quickly developed the whole scenario. We narrowed the topic to indifference toward migrants, and more specifically – towards refugees. While we had some material to work on, our stuff could easier address problems we were facing. With their help we ultimately specified our goals. We fixed some other deficiencies and inconsistencies. Unquestionably, this is the effect and the power of discussion with others, of subjecting one’s ideas to constructive criticism and of proper supervision of someone more experienced. Even though sometimes we differed with our supervisors in the vision and content of workshop, we are of the opinion that thanks to these talks and discussions we managed to finally come up with something of which we can be proud.

Lastly, while having everything on our minds, we started putting the ideas on paper. Presentation, video, data, information, exercises and activities – step by step everything has been written down, just in order to make our workshop as useful as only possible for anyone, who would like to bring students’ awareness on the topic of refugees and to fight people’s indifference towards them. We spent a lot of time meeting, discussing items, arguing even about details. A side effect of our meetings was that we developed our skills in Italian cuisine – well, making pasta and risotto is no secret to us now.

To sum up, we can say that overall it was quite a challenge. Most surprisingly, the challenge was the task and not working in a group. We divided the tasks evenly. However, preparing a scenario proved to be something hard, especially for us who were not experienced in this field. We went through the real intellectual adventure – from initial enthusiasm, towards chaos caused by too many ideas, arguments about the shape of the scenario, anger caused by (as it appeared at that time) unsolvable problems, resignation with failure, new hope and then in the end simple, plain happiness from accomplishing our task successfully. We learned a lot, we gained loads of experience – this is something what we have taken for ourselves. What we give back as an exchange is an exemplary workshop scenario. It will neither solve all the problem of the world, nor will change the place where we live, but we do believe that it can be just a little step towards change for better.

Very interested in this topic? We have a related blog post for you:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Anti-semitism and Language

By HIA Fellows: Clara Kent, Elżbieta Kwiecińska,Vera Wedekind

When it came time for the “output phase” of our HIA Poland fellowship, we were all excited to see what we would learn and what we would create. Upon learning our group and topic assignments, we each delved into individual research. Elżbieta Kwiecińska has studied and led workshops on the topic of anti-Semitism before, so we at first turned to her for guidance. It was after conversations with Elżbieta and other Polish fellows in the program as well as HIA staff and some of our speakers that we realized we had a unique opportunity to tackle the huge, historic issue of anti-Semitism with a new and fresh approach - through talking about the power of language. Clara Kent had studied linguistic social theory in the past, so she headed up the theoretical basis for the project, while Vera Wedekind jumped into brainstorming workshop activity ideas. When the time came for the “Training of Trainers” workshop, we were already prepared with our main ideas and themes. It was very exciting for us to learn from each other and enjoy the benefits of interdisciplinary exchange and group work, e.g. neither Vera nor Elżbieta had studied linguistic social theory before, so our different knowledge complemented each other.

The “Training of Trainers” workshop provided some valuable skills and we were able to meet together several times to build the framework for our workshop. In the last week we were all able to work together well to build towards our final result. Perhaps the most challenging thing was finding time to meet in our busy HIA schedules and dealing with issues of linguistic and academic differences. Yet it was this same diversity of experience and background that proved to be the most enjoyable for us. The opportunity to work, discuss, and plan with such a unique group of activists proved invigorating as we put the final touches on our workshop scenarios.

All in all, we learned not only about workshops or anti-Semitic language, but also how to work together in diverse teams, each using their unique background experience to make the team better.

Clara Kent, Vera Wedekind , Elżbieta Kwiecińska

Very interested in this topic? We have a related blog post for you:

Monday, 1 July 2013

What Does it Mean to Be a Hero? Could You Become One Too?

From left to right: Elorm Avakame, Immanuel Lokwei, Ewa Wierzyńska (Jan Karski Project, Polish History Museum), and Tomasz Pyszko

By HIA Fellows: Immanuel Lokwei, Tomasz Pyszko, and Elorm Avakame

Who is a hero? What are the characteristics of heroism? Is heroism inherent or can it be learned? Does the potential for heroism exist within some of us? Within all of us? Why should we study heroes? Is there anything to be learned from their example? What if there isn’t? These are the questions we grappled with as a group upon learning that we’d been commissioned to illuminate the life and legacy of Jan Karski for the education of youth.

Karski was a veteran of the Polish Army during World War II, a prisoner of war in Soviet and German prison camps, a survivor who managed to escape from both camps. He is most famous for being  a courier in the Polish Underground resistance to German Nazi occupation and became one of the organization’s most invaluable members. He toiled endlessly and under constant risk of assassination. He was a survivor of Gestapo torture, and one of few non-Jewish men  to have ever entered the Warsaw Ghetto and the German Nazi death camp for the purpose of reporting the plight of the Polish Jews to the world, including to the President of the United States. There may be no clearer exemplar of heroism.

However, what does his example mean for Polish youth today? If Karski is the model hero, is it possible for youth to aspire to heroism in a context devoid of warfare? Without tanks or bullets, without occupiers to resist against, without the constant threat of death, what can youth take away from Karski? More importantly, is it possible that his accomplishments were only possible because he possessed characteristics distinctly superior to the average human being?

In considering these questions, we recognized that an emphasis on the mythology of Karski’s heroism may have the unintended consequence of making his example inaccessible to the learner. In truth, it may be counterproductive to hail Karski as an extraordinary man of unadulterated moral virtue. We chose to reposition Jan Karski an ordinary man who chose to act in the face of the injustice that he observed around him – a choice that each of us can make every day of our lives. This fundamental repositioning is our way of making him  more approachable to the young people. The workshop that we have created salutes Karski, and rightfully so. However, by looking at his’s life through a different lens, we are able to connect his experience to the experience of the learner.

In interviews held with Ewa Wierzyńska and Wojciech Białożyt, representatives of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation we learned that their mission is similar to ours: educate the world about Jan Karski, and inspire young people to follow his example. Though our circumstances may differ from his, we all encounter examples of injustice. In taking even a small step of action, we tread on the road taken by Jan Karski and by all those who have been committed to the pursuit of justice.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Irena Inspiration

By HIA Fellows: Katarzyna Kotula and Hannah Gardenswartz

When we were first assigned the topic of Irena Sendler for our project, we were a little concerned. At least with the other topics we have had either some lecture or discussion as a group, or at the very least, we all had some information or idea of the topic coming into the program. Irena Sendler was a character that the non-Polish fellow had only vaguely heard of beforehand. We knew that she was a hero of some sort and was connected with the Jews in the Holocaust, but even those who grew up in Poland around her legend were not prepared for the sort of powerful individual that she was. With this basic knowledge, we realized that the obvious first goal of our workshop would be education on her life and story as well as drawing some message from her life work on how to be better people. While the goal of making better people is rather unrealistic for a 90 minute workshop, we hope that the students use this workshop as a time and space to think critically about their lives and how they can be inspired to improve themselves.

©Photo: Mariusz Kubik, zoom by User:ABX - own work,

Because we had a more limited starting point for understanding who she was, we have had the great joy in discovering how incredible she was. One of the most moving parts of our research involved reading her eulogy in different news sources. On the one hand, she was a hero in the most literal sense of the word, but on the other hand, her life is so unknown that the newspapers could not fully sum up how much she has given.

When getting feedback on our workshops, the feedback we received focused on the worry that we were putting her on a pedestal and making her a lofty hero instead of a woman who did what she thought was right. This was one of the biggest challenges of the revisions, because in many ways we do want to put her on a pedestal, mostly because we believe that she deserves it, however that creates an not relatable personage. We think that she deserves to be given an honorific place in history. Perhaps the greatest honor is not being a lofty hero, but being one that students some 70 years later can draw inspiration from. Not everyone has the courage to smuggle 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto and into homes and convents in the Aryan part of Warsaw, but everyone might have the courage to stand against injustice in many ways, both large and small.

What we liked most about the story of Irena Sendler was that was so open to interpretation and for evaluation in modern society. We could have talked about her as a hero that saved Jewish children, but in doing so converted them to Roman Catholic to ensure their safety during the war. If their Jewishness dies in the ghetto, how much of their identity is lost as well? How does this contribute to the homogeneous society of Poland? The discussion we decided was more uplifting, personal, and possibly relevant for the high school student target group of our workshop. We decided to ‘use’ Irena Sendler as a model for what it means to take action against injustice and how much courage is involved in not being a passive witness.