Irena Sendler Saves Ava

Issue 5 | Winter 2020 |


September 19431


Ava sips apple juice—
fizzy with barbiturates—
to hibernate
like a hedgehog
and awaken
in a new place,
but the hedgehog
to stumble out of deep
sleep for a new nest.
Too young,
Ava’s choice
was made for her,
because she giggles
like the splinter of light
forcing itself through the seam
at her coffin’s latch,
the way her warm breath
forced its way
through snow covered
knitted mittens
months ago.
When she awakens—
yet still wearing
a death shroud—
she will smell
of pine
rather than her
mother’s hands.


1Irena Sendler became the director of the Department for the Care of Jewish Children for the underground Council for Aid to Jews (the Polish code name for the organization was Zegota) in September 1943. It is estimated that under her leadership, thousands of Jewish children were rescued by being smuggled out of ghettos into orphanages, convents, and foster homes.