Irena and her underground network rescued 2,500 Jewish children from Poland during WWII. She and her 10 compatriots were able to smuggle children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. In October 1943, Irena was arrested and tortured--her legs and feet were fractured during her constant interrogations. She was sentenced to death, but the executioner had been bribed to help her escape. She lived out the rest of the war in hiding. The names of the children were written down on tissue paper and hidden in bottles that were buried. After the war was over, the bottles were retrieved, but almost all of the children's parents had died at the Treblinka Death Camp. Mostly, Irena went unnoticed to history till 1999:
Life in a Jar' started as a National History Day project in September of 1999. Four students (Megan Stewart, Liz Cambers, Sabrina Coons and Jessica Shelton) began looking for information about Irena Sendler. Mr. Conard had given them a clipping he had found in a 1994 issue of U.S. News and World Report. The mention of Irena was in a story called "Other Schindlers." Only one web site on the Internet mentioned Irena, it was not until the students visited Poland in 2001 that Irena's story became known to the world. At last count there were over 80,000 web sites on the Internet mentioning Irena.
The students and teacher of the 'Life in a Jar' project have gathered over 3,500 pages of material and research on the life of Irena Sendler and work of Zegota.
Irena's story became known to the world through the Life in a Jar project. The author of the Polish book which features Irena's life story says, "Everybody I talked to in working on this book, said that international and Polish interest in Irena Sendler’s activities was begun and provoked by the activities of the Kansas girls and popularization in the American media."
More information can be found at http://www.irenasendler.org/facts.asp
Kind of makes Al Gore's winning seem rather silly, huh?