“IRENA’S VOW” A POWERFUL STATEMENT ABOUT COURAGE AND SELFLESSNESS


BONNIE GOLDBERG

In the Jewish religion, there is no higher designation and honor for a non-Jewish person than to be named a Righteous among the Nations, a term used for a non-Jew who risked his life to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis in Germany during the Holocaust.

In the Torah it states that if you save one life it is as if you’ve saved the world.  By these standards Irena Gut, a Polish girl, saved the world a dozen times over.  To learn her incredibly brave story, go to Square One Theatre Company’s excellent production of “Irena’s Vow” by Dan Gordon playing weekends until Saturday, February 19.

Irena Gut wanted to be a nurse but Hitler’s armies had other plans.  In 1939, the German Army invaded Poland and she was arrested and raped and left to die in the snow.  Three years later, after being sent to a work camp she witnesses a Nazi officer tossing a baby boy in the air, as if he were a clay pigeon, shooting him, and then killing his Jewish mother.  Irena vowed at that moment to risk her own life to save as many Jews as possible from being slaughtered.

Peggy Nelson is luminous as the courageous and creative Irena who is plucked from a munitions factory to become the housekeeper for a seventy-year-old high ranking German officer, Major Edward Rugemer (David Victor).  She makes herself indispensable to Rugemer and moves with him to a villa, smuggling a dozen Jewish people, including Lazar (Brian Michael Riley), Ida (Danielle Sultini) and Fanka (Alisson Wood), who had worked in the hotel laundry and were due to be deported for the gas chambers.

Without thought to her own well-being as she would have been shot if discovered, the clever Irena hid her new friends in the basement and later a secret bunker, finally smuggling them into the woods and into the hands of the partisans before they could be arrested.

At one point, Major Rugemer discovers her secret and threatens to expose her.  Irena is forced to become his mistress to save her own life and protect the rescued Jews, including a new baby.  Rokita, a German officer (Mark Frattaroli) tries to prove Irena’s guilt while a hotel worker Schultz (Gary Blomberg) quietly and anonymously helps her in her mission.  Tom Holehan directs this truly remarkable tale with a gripping realism.

For tickets ($20, students and seniors $19), call Square One Theatre Company, 2422 Main Street Stratford (exit 32, off I-95) at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., with a twilight matinee Saturday, February 19 at 4 p.m.

 

Follow the true story of a young girl who saw the world’s injustices and inhumanity and worked in a simple but profound way to right the wrongs.

 

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