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Irene Sendler statue unveiled in ceremony at Fountain Gardens, Newark



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The statue to second world war heroine Irena Sendler was unveiled in front of dignitaries including the Polish ambassador to the UK.

The monument to the Polish woman, who helped to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis, has been erected at Newark's Fountain Gardens on London Road.

It was unveiled in a small covid-secure ceremony on Saturday.

Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623503)
Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623503)

The Polish ambassador, Arkady Rzegocki, said it was a great honour to attend the ceremony celebrating the amazing legacy of Irena Sendler.

He said: "The woman showed us how to behave in our darkest moment, that even in your darkest moment you can do something.

"Irena Sendler saved more than 1,000 people through the Polish underground resistance during the second world war. This amazing story should be known not only in Poland and the UK but all over the world."

Irena Sendler. Credit: LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01 (47957786)
Irena Sendler. Credit: LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01 (47957786)

Mr Rzegocki unveiled the statue, created by Andrew Lilley, with Deputy Lieutenant Air Chief Marshal (Retired) Sir Andrew Pulford to applause from those who attended, including several members of the public.

It was followed by a blessing by Fr Michael O'Donoghue, of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, who drew comparisons between Irena Sendler's story and that of Newark's own war hero, Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Derry, who helped saved thousands of Jews in Rome.

During the second world war Irena Sendler worked a the Department for Social Welfare and Public Health in Warsaw in German-occupied Poland.

She was part of a network of workers and volunteers, mostly women, who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, saving them from the extermination camps.

Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623553)
Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623553)

Irena would provide them with false documents and shelter them with willing Polish families or in orphanages.

Irena, who was only 5ft tall, was arrested in October 1943, but withstood torture and imprisonment without revealing anything. She died in 2008.

The leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, David Lloyd, said the positioning of the statue was apt.

Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623505)
Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623505)

It was near the fountain erected in memory Ethel Harrison, a women who drowned trying to save a child, and in sight of the former maternity hospital, so formed an area of tribute to heroic women who had done so much for children

The statue ­— featuring Irena Sendler with two children ­— was created over six months by sculptor Andrew Lilley, who learned of her story after seeing a video posted by his daughter-in-law, Lucy.

Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623455)
Irena Sendler statue unveiling on Fountain Gardens, Newark, with guests Penny Rainbow, Air Chief Marshall (rtd) Sir Andrew Pulford, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, Polish Institute Director, Marta de Zuniga, Robert Jenrick MP, Mayor of Newark, Lisa Geary. Followed be wreath laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves. (48623455)

It was a personal project for the artist, who said he had been moved to tears by Irena's story and he said he was delighted with the response to his creation.

"It has been amazing. Even as we were putting it in people were coming up to us to talk to us about it," he said.

"Irena is the perfect example of selfless courage in sticking up for others in the face of adversity.

"From the start I wanted this for children, to show them what is really meaningful in life and how much she sacrificed for children, and that's why I wanted it to be so approachable for them."

The child in the statue is based on Andrew's daughter, Subhadra, as a child and her name is etched in the child's coat. His daughter-in-law's name is engraved in Irena's coat.

The statue was mainly funded by the Polish Cultural Institute. Newark was chosen for its location because of its long, strong links with the Polish community.

The unveiling was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Polish War Graves in nearby Newark Cemetery.



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