I have no other role models than my father and mother… mmm, maybe some few relatives and close friends add to that category.
Having that said, there are a number of people who I admire for this or that reason, without idolising them, but truly admiring them for something remarkable in their lives, in their ideas, in their actions.
Here go a few of them (in alphabetic order), as I get to add them.
Known as “the man with the golden arm”, James Harrison learned at a young age, soon after he became a blood donor, that his plasma composition was unique and was a key ingredient to make a treatment for Rhesus disease.
Throughout his lifetime, until he made his final donation on May 11th, 2018, the total of 1173 donations are estimated to have saved over 2.4 million unborn babies from the condition (plasma can be donated every two weeks, unlike blood).
The man who planted hundreds of trees, Jadav Payeng, was born in India in 1963. When he was around 16, in 1979, he started planting bamboos, after finding a large number of snakes that had died due to excessive heat after floods washed them onto the tree-less sandbar.
Nicknamed “Molai”, he started working on the forest in 1979 when the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori situated at a distance of 5 km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district. Molai was one of the labourers who worked in that project which was completed after five years. He continued to plant more trees on his own, in an effort to transform the area into a forest.
The forest, which came to be known as Molai forest, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and over 100 deer and rabbits. Molai forest is also home to apes and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
This led to the production of a film, properly named “The Molai Forest”.
The film was awarded the Best Documentary prize at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase in the American Pavilion at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Payeng belongs to a tribe called “Mishing” in Assam, India. He lives in a small hut in the forest with Binita, his wife, and his 3 children (two sons and a daughter). He has cattle and buffalo on his farm and sells the milk for his livelihood, which is his only source of income.
Irena Sendler / Nicholas Winton
Two persons with similar will and determination.
Two persons who risked their lives while saving others’, of people who had no freedom to do anything for themselves.
Most people know Oskar Schindler (especially after the Steven Spielberg film), others will fondly remember Aristides de Sousa Mendes and what he did as a Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, and there are several others who made a difference during the Holocaust, as true humanitarians.
Irena Sendler, with the assistance of some two dozen other Żegota members, smuggled approximately 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto in the occupied Poland, and then provided them with false identity documents and shelter outside the ghetto, saving those children from the Holocaust.
On October 20, 1943, the brutal regime discovered what Sendler had done and arrested her, but despite the torture, where she her her legs and feet fractured, she refused to tell her interrogators where the children were. Despite being sentenced to death for her “crimes”, Sendler escaped and survived the war after her co-workers bribed a German executioner to help her escape.
With the exception of diplomats who issued visas to help Jews flee Nazi-occupied Europe, Sendler saved more Jews than any other individual.
Her actions went largely unnoticed for many years until the story was uncovered by four young students at Uniontown High School, in Kansas, who wrote a play called “Life in a Jar” about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler.
Sir Nicholas Winton was a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of aproximately 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for “children transportation”). Winton found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. The world found out about his work over 50 years later, in 1988. The British press dubbed him the “British Schindler”.
In 2003 Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to humanity, in saving Jewish children from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia”. In 2014, he was awarded the highest honour of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion (1st class), by Czech President Miloš Zeman.
As an associate of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, in 1938, Winton established a Children’s Section and, using the name of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, initially without authorization, began taking applications from parents at his hotel in Prague. As his operation expanded, he opened an office in central Prague.
Winton returned to London to organize the rescue operation on that end. He raised money to fund the transports of the children and the 50 pound per child guarantee demanded by the British government to fund the children’s eventual departure from Britain. He also had to find British families willing to care for the refugee children. By day, Winton worked at his regular job on the Stock Exchange, and then devoted late afternoons and evenings to his rescue efforts.
The first transport of children organized by Winton left Prague by plane for London on March 14, 1939, the day before the Germans occupied the Czech lands. After the Germans established a Protectorate in the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, Winton organized seven further transports that departed by rail out of Prague and across Germany to the Atlantic Coast, then by ship across the English Channel to Britain. At the train station in London, British foster parents waited to collect the children. The last trainload of children left Prague on August 2, 1939. Rescue activities ceased when Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war in Germany in early September 1939.
The total number of children rescued through Winton’s efforts is not yet certain. According to a scrapbook he kept, 664 children came to Great Britain on transports that he organized.
After the war was over, Winton kept his actions as a secret for half a century, not telling even his wife Grete. Then, in 1988, Grete found a scrapbook dating to 1939 in their attic. It held all the children’s photos, a list of their names, letters from some of their parents, and other documents. It was the first time she’d learned of her husband’s story.
Later that year, the BBC program That’s Life aired a reunion between Winton and the children – obviously now grown adults – he rescued. Winton was surprised when one of the children he rescued was revealed to be seated beside him, so imagine how he felt when the show’s host asked if there were any other people he’d helped to save in the audience and two dozen others stood and applauded.