Heroine’s feats retold, celebrated

By JENELLE JOHNSON
Family Living Editor

Register/Jenelle Johnson
Megan Stewart-Felt talked about her friendship with Irena Sendler at Wednesday’s Southeast Kansas Family and Community Education’s district meeting at the North Community Building. Felt was among four students at Uniontown High School who penned the play “Life in a Jar” depicting the life of Sendler during the Holocaust.

Megan Stewart-Felt became tearful when she remembered the life of Irena Sendler, a Polish born Catholic woman who saved thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust in World War II.
In the fall of 1999, Felt was a freshman at Uniontown High School. She and three other students were encouraged to work on a year-long National History Day project and chose Sendler as their topic after reading a clipping about her in U.S. News and World Report.
They discovered that Sendler entered a Warsaw Ghetto disguised as a non-Jewish social worker to help Jewish children escape sure death in Nazi camps. The children were adopted by Polish families or hid in convents and orphanages.
Sendler made lists of the children’s real names, put the lists in jars and then buried the jars in a garden so that someday she could dig up the jars and find the children to tell them their true identity. Unfortunately most children never learned who their real parents were, Felt said.
Sendler was eventually captured by the Nazis and beaten severely — her legs and feet broken — but was released into hiding when a guard was bribed by the Polish underground.
“We took all the information we had gathered and wrote ‘Life in a Jar’ for our National History Day presentation. We had no idea at the time how this little history project would effect all our lives,” Felt said.
The students discovered through their research that Sendler was still alive and living in Warsaw.
The students began giving performances of “Life in a Jar” around the state to clubs, religious organizations and civic groups. The girls took a jar to each performance and collected funds for Sendler and other Polish rescuers.
Sendler heard of the students’ project and wrote them a letter thanking the girls for continuing the work that she had begun a half century earlier.
In 2001, Felt’s dream of meeting Sendler became reality through the generosity of a Jewish educator and businessman in Kansas City who had seen a performance of “Life in a Jar.”
“The Kansas City teacher asked me if he raised the money would I go to Poland to meet Sendler. Of course I said yes. In less than 24 hours the money was raised and my ticket purchased to go to Poland,” Felt said.
Felt had felt a strong connection with Sendler after portraying her for many years in “Life in a Jar.”
Sendler died May 12, 2008, coinciding with Felt’s birthday.
On April 15, the little history project researched by the four young Uniontown students premiered as a movie on Hallmark Hall of Fame.