The Karate Kid and the Polish Woman


Mr. Miyagi arriving just in time to save Daniel is one of my favourite scenes in all of cinema. I remember rewinding and watching that scene a second time when watching the movie with friends back in the mid-80’s. And within that rewind moment we also rewound multiple times the moment where Miyagi kicks one of the skeleton punks in the… umm… downtown business district.

kkid3I just love save-the-day moments. Have you ever daydreamed about someone you love being in trouble and you jumped in just in the nick of time, blocked the punch, delivered your own along with a few good groin kicks for good measure, then watch the bad guys scurry away? Or maybe it’s a little more of a passive-aggressive daydream where you walk in on people talking crap about you. Because, you know, they definitely talk crap about you! But you walked in right when they were in the middle of it! Well, well, well…

I learned a great story of a woman who had many save-the-day moments. Approximately 2,500 of them, in fact. I’m quite shocked I hadn’t heard the story before this week. Her name was Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who witnessed the Nazis taking control of her homeland, rounding up the Jews, and imprisoning those poor people in the “Warsaw Ghetto.” I’m sure she wished she could bulldoze her way in there and save everyone, but with an entire army in her way, she knew that wasn’t reality. If she wanted to save anyone she’d have to use wisdom and creativity: two things God has given each one of us.

This horrible experience affected everyone in Poland, but imagine how it felt as a social worker, and employee of the Polish Welfare Department, to see so many poor children—many with whom she would have worked rather closely—get carried off to tIrena Sendlerhis death prison. So, she gathered help from 1) her fellow comrades who worked in her field, and 2) a convenient little disease called “typhus.”

Typhus is a disease you don’t want to have. Fever. Chills. Nasty rash all over. Delerium. Even a coma could set in. It was well known that cases of it were discovered in the Ghetto (no surprise considering the living conditions Nazis provided their prisoners). It was also well known that the Germans didn’t want to catch it. And there it was… this fear of theirs was her way in. She would get permission to go inside the ghetto to check for signs of the disease and give treatments. And when she left, she’d smuggle out a kid or two. She might be able to drive a few out of there in an ambulance. Sometimes she had to sedate the child and pack them into a suitcase or medical kit.

I became an even bigger fan of hers when I realized that she personally got 400 children out of there, and that the other estimated 2,100 were smuggled out by friends of hers whom she both enabled and inspired.

So to illustrate… Competitor on the left: child-killing Nazis. Competitor on the right: Irena “Send-her-in” Sendler.

Congratulations The Karate Kid. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…kkid3

Best Actress: Elizabeth Shue as Ali in The Karate Kid, mainly because of the teen-hood crush I had on her.

Best Actor: Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. After all, he got an Oscar nomination for his performance.

Best Quote: “Wax on. Wax off.” See how many people you have to ask before finding one who doesn’t recognize this quote.

A few final notes about Sendler. She was captured by the Nazis for her actions and tortured severely. So much so that they caused considerable damage to her legs and feet. She was also sentenced to death. But she escaped, adopted a fake name, went right back to work with her friends saving Jewish children. She died in 2008 after living a long full life. How did she escape? One of her friends bribed one of the guards to let her go.
Ah, Europe. You and bribes are like peas and carrots.



5 thoughts on “The Karate Kid and the Polish Woman

  1. Troy, beautiful article!!!
    Last year I saw a play called “Life In A Jar” about Irene Sendler . It was unforgettable, and I wondered why this woman was not well know. After the show I met a woman from Kansas who was instrumental in bringing Irene’s story to the stage (she was in the play), and who had gone to meet Irene in Poland before she died.
    It was an unforgettable evening. Thank you for reminding me to think about it again.

    Take the teen crush goggles off…Elizabeth Shue is the only mistake in the masterpiece that is The Karate Kid…and she did not improve. She tops my Worst Actress Ever List!!!

  2. “Hater’ is harsh…I’m sure she is lovely. …she just can’t act!
    Watch” The Saint” if you need further proof.

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