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Order of the White Eagle for Irena Sendler

       For heroism and acts of exceptional courage and also for very special merits in saving human lives - such was the motivation quoted by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski on presenting Irena Sendler the Order of the White Eagle.

       "We our deeply proud to have you among us today, a lady who saved the lives of more than two and a half thousand Jewish children from the Ghetto" - stated the President of Poland. "It is due to the work of such people as you that we believe good can overcome evil. We believe a frail woman is able to conquer even the greatest tyrants and do so much by acting with courage, decently and consistent with humane values" - he added.

       Address by Irena Sendler on receiving the Order of the White Eagle

       Mr President, distinguished Guests, dear Friends

       What can I say? ...... I have lived my long life without looking for reward, for praise, though they have also come my way.

       I have tried to live a decent life which has not always been an easy thing, especially when you have been sentenced to extermination. Every Jewish child who survived due to my efforts has justified my existence on this Earth but is no cause for praise.

       Let me add that the fact that I have received the highest distinction of my motherland - the Order of the White Eagle - from the hands of President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, constitutes an additional honour awarded to me. For those are worthy hands representing our country's laudable aspirations.

       There are to this day, in Poland and the world, many painful problems, many tragedies which must be opposed. And also those who must be perceived offering their assistance to the injured. Mr President, I am convinced they will not be found wanting.

       From the bottom of my heart I wish to thank you for the high distinction I have received, which I wish to dedicate to all my self-sacrificing collaborators during those evil years, persons who - in their majority - are no longer among us... I wish to thank the Chapter of the Order and you, Mr President, an unfailing Patron of people of good will among whom you have deigned to include my humble self.

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