Middlebury

Play, exhibit October 16-21 focus on heroic acts during the Holocaust

October 1, 2008

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Middlebury College will host two events that focus on people extending themselves for justice during dangerous times, including a performance of "Life in a Jar," a play by five Kansas teenagers that tells the story of Holocaust hero Irena Sendler, and an accompanying art exhibit by Polish artist Wladyslaw Brzosko. In honor of these events, Vermont Governor James Douglas has proclaimed Oct.17, 2008, as Irena Sendler Day.

On Oct. 16, at 7 p.m., the student-written and student-performed play "Life in a Jar" will be presented in Dana Auditorium, located in Sunderland Language Center on College Street (Route 125). Admission is free.

Sendler was a Catholic social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto. Sendler's remarkable story was forgotten until three girls from a rural high school in Kansas found a brief reference to Sendler's heroism, wrote a play about her for a history project, and began performing their play throughout the United States, Canada and Poland. Consequently, Sendler, who recently died at the age of 98, became a national hero in Poland. In 2007 she was jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the President of Poland and the Prime Minister of Israel.

During their Vermont tour, the Kansas students will perform "Life in a Jar" in Middlebury, Montpelier and Burlington. The presentations will highlight the legacy of Sendler and her beliefs in the worth and dignity of all people, the need to respect all people, and the power of one person to make a difference in the world.

Kinga Krzeminska, a translator and friend to Sendler over the last two years of her life, will accompany the students on their tour. Krzeminska has published Holocaust research, served as a translator for Al Gore, and spent the summer translating important Polish documents at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

An accompanying art exhibit by Wladyslaw Brzosko will be on view from Thursday through Tuesday, Oct. 16-21, at the Johnson Gallery of the Johnson Memorial Building, located on Ch√Ęteau Road off College Street (Route 125). An opening reception will take place in the gallery on Oct. 16 at 5:15 p.m.

Brzosko's Warsaw Ghetto Series includes dramatic oil paintings and sketches that capture the drama, horror and poignancy of this tragic history. He was involved in smuggling and transporting to safety a number of Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto. His friendship with Dr. Janusz Korczak, the Jewish pediatrician in the ghetto who voluntarily escorted 200 children from his orphanage to their deaths in Treblinka, dates from prewar times. Of particular interest is Brzosko's large oil canvas of the doomed Dr. Korczak leading his children through the Warsaw ghetto to the train that will take them to Treblinka. Sendler witnessed this procession through the ghetto and recalled it in moving detail.

The artistic and historical confluence of "Life in a Jar" and the Brzosko works provides an enriched, multi-media environment to explore the disturbing and critical history of wartime Poland and the heroism and dignity of ordinary individuals faced with staggering moral challenges.

Both events are sponsored by several organizations, including Middlebury College's Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, Hillel, Program in Studio Art, Holocaust Remembrance Film Fund and Aquinnah Fund for Jewish Studies, as well as the Havurah Jewish Community of Addison County, The Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont, Middlebury Union High School and Burlington's Ohavi Zedek Synagogue and Christ Church Presbyterian.

For more information, contact Middlebury College Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life Program Coordinator Ellen McKay at 802-443-5626 or emckay@middlebury.edu.