Norm Conard, the director of the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, will receive an award in a special ceremony in honor of the 10th anniversary of Irena Sendler’s death.
The recognition is for Conard’s work with Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, which brought Irena Sendler’s name onto the global stage, according to a press release.
The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Poland along with Taube Philanthropies will present a special award to Conard at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, on June 11.
The award is presented in the name of Irena Sendler to Polish citizens who ‘preserve Jewish heritage and help renew Jewish culture in Poland.’
Conard is the first non-Polish citizen to receive the award.
“This is about emphasizing the history of the Jewish people in Poland,” Conard said in an interview with fortscott.biz. “Before the war there were 3,000,000 Jews after the war there were 30,000.”
Conard said he would be attending a dinner Sunday evening with two former presidents of Poland, in addition to the award ceremony.
Following is excerpts from Conards intended speech:
“There are many people who have impacted history, in extraordinary ways. Irena Sendler stands out because of her incredible courage and undying love for children. ‘People caring about others’ was her mantra, understanding the need to ‘repair the world,’ was her motto.
“I salute the Taube Philanthropies and the Ministry of Culture for the Country of Poland, for their wonderful desire to ‘preserve Jewish heritage and to help renew Jewish culture in Poland.’
“Many years ago there was a thriving Jewish life in this country. May that again be the case, as awards like this bring out heritage and history. The two entities involved with this ceremony both believe in the future of the Jewish people in Poland.
“Almost 20 years ago, a project began in Kansas, which would change many lives. It would also lead to a close personal relationship for my students and myself, with Irena Sendler. It was our privilege to travel to Poland and be with Irena on five occasions.
“These times with her would be filled with laughter, with tears, and with a transparency from Irena that would transform everyone in the room. She also would share many, many rich thoughts and wishes. Until her death in 2008, she constantly spoke out for those people who were downtrodden and would say again and again, that we must respect all people, regardless of race, religion or creed.
“As stated many times by Irena, her one regret in life was not being able to rescue more children. She also would want me to say, that these rescues were done by her network of over 25 people, always being humble and giving credit to them. She would always give the names of those in this brave, powerful, and passionate network, who assisted her in the rescue, hiding, and care of these children and adults from the Warsaw Ghetto and the streets of Warsaw.
“… I also stand here representing three high school students in Kansas and many other students and adults who have shared her story with the world.
“For Megan, Liz and Sabrina, I say, ‘Job well done,’ but there is much more in the process of repairing the world. To Bieta, Renata and other child survivors, I say, ‘Your love of sharing Irena’s story has made a tremendous impact on Poland and the world.’ To those presenting this award, I say, ‘Your honoring of courage and valor is so appropriate in our day and time. Her story is needed as much today, as ever before.’
“In the performance of Life in a Jar, there is a line that says, “Irena Sendler was a light, a spiritual light in the darkness. She repaired the world, one child at a time, and made a difference.”