Here is an assembly I did this morning in our local infants school on the theme of Remembrance Day:
Show the children the first picture of Irena Sendler. Ask them to describe what they think she would be like. You may like to make a list of descriptive words.
Ask the children to look at her closely and have a guess at the job she did. Ask the children why they came up with their ideas.
Show the children the second picture and see if this gives them a clue as to Irene’s job.
Remind the children that at this time of year we take the time to think about people who have made huge sacrifices to allow us to live in peace. We particularly think about those who gave up so much to fight in the First and Second World Wars.
There are many people who were called heroes in these wars – soldiers, airmen, doctors, nurses and others – and the lady we are thinking about was also a hero. Explain to the children who Irena Sendler was:
Irena Sendler was born in Poland in February 1910. She worked as a social worker but when the Second World War began she managed to get a job as a plumbing and sewers specialist in the Warsaw Ghetto (where Jewish people lived). She had never understood why the Jews should be picked on and she wanted to help them.
Irena knew that it was intended to take Jewish children from their parents and ill-treat them, so she decided to try to rescue them. With their parents’ help, Irene smuggled children out of the Ghetto in her truck, in her tools box or in sacks. She always had a dog with her and she taught it to bark when she entered and left the Ghetto. The barking meant that the soldiers would keep away from her truck, and it also covered up any noise the children might make, if they were upset.
Once the children were out of the Ghetto Irene arranged safe houses in which the children could live. Irene kept special records of all the children and families that she helped. But in case the German soldiers came looking for her records, she hid them in a jam jar and buried it under a tree in her back garden!
Irene managed to smuggle 2,500 children out of the Ghetto.
During the war Irena was once caught and questioned and badly treated but it didn’t stop her carrying on helping others.
After the war Irena dug up the jar and tried to trace the families of all the children she had helped so they could be reunited.
Show the third picture. This is Irena in 2005 with some of the children she rescued in the war.
Point out to the children that the ideas they had about this lady when they first saw her photograph were probably a long way from the truth about her life! The first photograph of Irena Sendler shows us a sweet old lady … but her life has been the life of a hero.
Flowers are sometimes used as a gift for remembering birthdays and other special events, such as weddings and Mothering Sunday. The messages they give include: ‘Thank you’, ‘I remember you’ or ‘You’re special’.
In early November we often see people wearing another kind of flower. It doesn’t bloom at this time of the year in this country, but on the streets, in shops, at railway stations and in school, red paper poppies are sold and then worn on jackets, coats, jumpers.
It is to remember those who have died, sacrificing their lives to ensure that we remain a free country; those who fought and gave their lives for the rest of us and our future. During the fierce fighting of the First World War, many fields became battlegrounds and wild habitats were destroyed. In Flanders, or Belgium, where many thousands of people died, the first flower that took seed and grew after this destruction was the poppy. Poppies have been used ever since to remind us of the war, and the sacrifice of those who died to ensure a more secure and free world for all of us.
At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, in 1918, the Armistice, or peace agreement, was signed. This signalled the end of the First World War. At 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918.
The Royal British Legion, a charity dedicated to helping the victims of war and their families, took the poppy as their emblem. It is a reminder to each one of us to say thank you to all those who died: during both world wars, and in more recent conflicts across the world. Buying poppies is not only a way of saying thank you; the money is much needed in order to help those affected by war – victims and the families of those who have died.
Towns and villages throughout the country celebrate Remembrance Day, particularly remembering those in their own community who have suffered loss through war. People gather at special memorials in their local community and wreaths of poppies are laid at the memorials – at St. Andrew’s and All Saints there will be special services this Sunday. Everyone observes a two-minute silence at the same time – 11 a.m. This gives us a chance to say thank you, silently and together, and reflect on how war affects us all. It is important that we don’t forget those local people, local heroes, and those brave people who are still fighting in dangerous places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Wearing a red poppy will mean, ‘We are remembering together.’
Just take a moment to think of those brave people who gave so much whilst listening to this Remembrance music by Elgar.