Eight years ago, in a tiny southeast Kansas town, four girls had a goal: Tell the story of a woman who saved 2,500 children during the Holocaust.
Maybe, through their high school history project, these students could do Irena Sendler’s story justice.
But no one in Uniontown, Kan., could have imagined how far the 10-minute play they would write and perform would take them.
Or that they’d find themselves so eager for Friday morning when, in Oslo, Norway, the Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced. Observers focus on a handful of finalists: Al Gore, Canadian environmentalist Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Bolivian President Evo Morales.
And Irena Sendler.
“Our goal all along was to share her story with the world,” said Megan Stewart-Felt, one of the original students who created the play, “Life in a Jar,” based on Sendler’s story. “I just feel like God has led this every step it’s needed to go. We’d get to a place where we’d realize, ‘Wow, this is changing people’s lives. It can’t get any bigger.’
“Then it blows up again.”
The explosion this time surrounds the Nobel nomination. This year, 135 individuals and 46 groups are nominated. The nominations are confidential.
But those who submit names often announce them. In Sendler’s case, the president of Poland and the prime minister of Israel nominated the 97-year-old woman, who lives in a Warsaw nursing home and still communicates with the Kansas girls.
One of the main measurements for the award is what the person or group has done in the past year. For Sendler, whose work was done some 60 years ago, “Life in a Jar” helps meet those criteria by keeping her story alive.
“We are indebted to the Kansas students who shared this remarkable story with the world,” wrote Stefanie Seltzer, president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, in her letter to the Nobel selection committee.
They continue to perform her story, in May in Montreal, Canada, and just Wednesday night in Girard, Kan. They have performed it more than 225 times over the next eight years in 20 states and three countries.
Though no one knows who will win, at least one Internet betting site gives Sendler a decent shot, at 9/2 odds.
What’s so crazy is when the girls started their project in 1999 all they had was a five-year-old U.S. News & World Report clipping that their history teacher Norm Conard saved for a possible project idea. All it said was the woman saved 2,500 children in the Holocaust, which Conard thought must be a typographical error because her work wasn’t well known.
Back then, Sendler’s name only brought up two hits on a Web search....MORE