DELIVERY: Orphanage in Warsaw, Poland

Expedition Press Release

DeliverAid Expedition Provides Clothing, Toys And Educational Materials to Polish Orphans 

London, UK, April 10th, 2017 – Powered by a sponsorship syndicate of philanthropic businesses, DeliverAid provided welcome clothing, stationery, sports equipment and toys to orphans in the Janusz Korczak Orphanage in Warsaw.

The DeliverAid team visited the site in Warsaw, founded by Henryk Goldszmit (22 July 1878 or 1879 – 7 August 1942), a Polish-Jewish educator, children’s author, and pediatrician known as better known by his pen name Janusz Korczak. After spending many years working as director of an orphanage in Warsaw, Korczak refused sanctuary repeatedly and stayed with his orphans when the entire population of the institution was sent from the Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp in August of 1942.

In 1926 Korczak arranged for the children of his orphanage to begin their own newspaper, the Mały Przegląd (Little Review), as a weekly attachment to the daily Polish-Jewish Newspaper Nasz Przegląd (Our Review). In these years, his secretary was the noted Polish novelist Igor Newerly. During the 1930s he had his own radio program where he promoted and popularized the rights of children. In 1933 he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Polonia Restituta.

The team were warmly received by both staff and some of the children during their aid delivery.

Peter Cameron-Burnett said:

“It’s a privilege to be able to make a delivery here, especially given the history of the establishment. Korczak provides an inspiration, not only in his dedication to his charges in the face of extremism, but in his forward thinking and empowerment of generations of young people.”  

END

NOTES FOR EDITORS

DeliverAid was founded in January 2017 to provide sustainable and direct assistance to children who are at risk or face disadvantage in refuges, orphanages, and camps internationally. The team’s efforts are powered by a sponsorship syndicate of philanthropic businesses. The DeliverAid team itself consists of a small core of media and project professionals who are looking to do something worthwhile, who are ably aided by volunteers both in the UK and overseas. Wherever possible, the team purchases supplies from UK charities so that they also substantial benefit from the expeditions. As well as delivering supplies, the team also provides computer equipment and training as part of their Bootstrap Programme to allow the children to develop skills that will not only assist themselves in building a better life, but which will also create employment and opportunity within their community.   

For Further Information

Contact Vicki Yates (OutReach Officer) at team@deliveraid.org


Our “Behind The Scenes” Travelogue …

THE DELIVERAID TEAM VISITS AN ORPHANAGE FOUNDED BY AN INCREDIBLY BRAVE MAN WHO PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE FOR HIS INTEGRITY …

It’s a bright morning in Warsaw. The cool breeze shakes the blossom from the cherry trees, and sends it swirling across the courtyard to garland the bald bronze head of a man who gazes with resignation and determination into infinity.

We are standing outside the tall railings looking into the grounds of the Janusz Korczak Orphanage, an imposing white multi-storey building which might pass for an embassy or a corporate headquarters, were it not for the fact that it is surrounded by modest sets of children’s play equipment.

There is a slightly sombre mood in the team this morning. A blend of sadness at what happened many years ago, and also a sense of respect for the man whose sightless eyes now follow us as we lug our hefty delivery bags up to the front door. The folks here aren’t expecting us, so we press the buzzer and wait, listening to the distant growl of Warsaw traffic a couple of blocks away.

Janusz Korczak isn’t the real name of the man captured in bronze, but it’s the name under which he best became known, publishing a series of children’s stories and childcare manuals during the early years of the last century. One of the stories is actually an early forerunner of Harry Potter, although in this story there is no handy upper-class boarding school to guide him, and he must find his own way of coping with his situation (a recurring theme in Korczak’s work.)

There is no answer at the door, but a distant sweeping grows closer, and an elderly woman rounds the corner, broom in hand. Does she speak English, we ask. No, she replies, smiling at us. At first we think she’s joking, given that she’s replied in English, to our English question, but it soon becomes apparent that “no” is probably the only English word she has at her command. Nevertheless, still smiling, she gestures for us to wait and hurries inside the building.

Korczak’s approach was one of empowerment. The children in the orphanage that he set up in the 1930s had a definite say in how things were run. They had their own Parliament and even printed their own newspaper, which was publicly distributed along with one of the adult focused periodicals.

The woman returns, with another slightly younger woman in tow. Whilst our team has a smattering of some languages, Polish is not one of them, and so we stand, slightly embarrassed and feeling like blundering tourists as we point to the bags and perform a complicated series of mimes that elicit a number of visible emotions in the two women, ranging from amusement to alarm. As we reach the end of our pantomime, the two women exchange glances, and one of them moves off into the dark recesses of the building. The remaining woman signs that we should enter, and so we carry our delivery holdalls into the atrium.

As the 1930s reached their close, storm clouds gathered over Europe, and in September 1939, war was declared. Korczak, who had been a doctor with the Polish army during the Great War, volunteered once again for military service to defend his country, but was unable to serve due to his age, and so he devoted his time to looking after for the 200 orphans in his care.

The younger woman has returned, and in the manner of Russian dolls, there is now another female with her who is even younger. At first we mistake her for one of the orphans, then we realise that there is a lanyard and identity badge round her neck. To be fair, she is probably in her early 20s, but it seems that the older you get, the younger everyone else looks. Her name is Olga, and she speaks English. We explain again – this time in words – who we are, and why we’re here, and she smiled at us, understanding.

A gaggle of teenagers appears in the corridor, and Olga quickly commandeers them. Pairing off, they take a bag between two and skip off up the stairs, as though the luggage is light as a feather. I heave one of the remaining bags onto my back, and totter after them. Each bag weighs exactly the requisite 22kg to ensure that we can get it into the aeroplane hold, and I climb the stairs like a snail with a massive mortgage.

As the Blitzkrieg raced across the flat Polish landscape, based on lessons that Hitler had learned from the British during the close of World War I, the Wehrmacht came to Warsaw. Soon after the Occupation began, the ghettos were set up. Korczak, his staff and the children were forced to move from their home into ever more cramped conditions.

Olga’s office is – of course – at the very top of the building. Puffing a little, a slight sweat prickle on the forehead, I lower my bag onto the floor, and we start to unpack the holdalls. There is a whispering and giggling from the children in the doorway as we start to pile clothing, sports equipment, toys and craft materials onto the various chairs and sofas of Olga’s office. I think of the space outside, as we pile tennis rackets, softball sets, skipping ropes and the like around Olga’s previously tidy office, and of the children playing under the watchful eye of Korczak’s metal effigy.

In the heart of each holdall – wrapped up with clothing to keep it secure – is a large core of pens, pencils, coloured crayons, calculators and a host of other items, some necessary for study, others designed for fun. Gradually, the pile on Olga’s desk grows.

As conditions in the ghetto worsened, the children studied, and put on plays, Korczak and his staff doing their best to shelter their charges from the deepening nightmare that surrounded them. as a renowned author and figure of some note, Korczak was repeatedly offered the chance to escape from the ghetto by the puppet government, but on each occasion he refused to leave the children.

The digital SLR we have brought with us is misbehaving. Either that, or we just don’t know how to use it properly, which is equally possible. The plethora of buttons and jog dials which gives skilled photographers such fine-grained control over the process is proving a barrier, and we can’t get the flash to work. Image after image results in Olga and myself as silhouettes against the window. Olga is patient however, and seems amused. Eventually, we switch to a mobile phone, which is more used to being handled by people who simply want to point-and-click without performing complex mental calculations involving ISOs and shutter speeds.

Then came a day in the first week of August, 1942, when time ran out. From the diary of Mary Berg, a ghetto survivor:

“… we all stood at the window and watched the soldiers surround the houses. Rows of children, holding each other by their little hands, began to walk out of the doorway. There were tiny tots of two or three years among them, while the oldest ones were perhaps thirteen. Each child carried the little bundle in his hand.”

Another witness, Joshua Perle, wrote:

Janusz Korczak was marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots. A few nurses were followed by two hundred children, dressed in clean and meticulously cared for clothes, as they were being carried to the altar.

There is a story that an SS officer recognized Korczak as the author of one of his favorite children’s books, and offered to help him escape. Korczak again refused to abandon the children, and boarded the train with them, a train that led them all to Treblinka’s inhuman gas chambers.

We shake hands with Olga, bid the children farewell, and emerge blinking into the bright sunshine. We feel lighter now. We have done what we came here to do, and now it’s time we were off to the next delivery destination.

Janusz’s bronze expression hasn’t changed, of course. He continues to stare through the railings and out across the years. To him, we are probably just an imperceptible blur as the years fleet past, children arriving, growing, learning, developing, leaving. Our offering today was modest, a few trinkets, toys and rags, but something is always better than nothing.

The wind shakes more blossom from the trees as we head out of the gate.

It looks like it’s going to be a nice summer.

— END

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s