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                           Mollie Wilson O’Reilly                                                                                            gives a commanding performance as Irena
                                                                                                                                             (Opdyke’s Polish name), she is constantly

                           The	Miracle	Worker                                                                                                in motion, rushing from one plot point
                                                                                                                                             to the next. Irena addresses the audience
                                                                                                                                             almost constantly, but she never seems
                           ‘irenA’s	VoW’
                                                                                                                                             to stand still long enough for anyone to

                                       hen Irene Gut Opdyke, a Pol-                         rible that it acquired a dreadful holiness. It   get to know her.
                                       ish Catholic, immigrated to                          was a miracle of evil. It was not possible to       This is problematic, because Opdyke’s
                                                                                            say with words what we had witnessed, and
                                       the United States in 1949,                           so we kept it safely guarded until the time      story grows more interesting, and more
                           she was not yet thirty years old. Like so                        when we could bring it out, and show it to       challenging, as you learn more about her
                           many Europeans who had survived the                              others, and say, “Behold. This is the worst      life. As In My Hands records, Opdyke was
                           horrors of the Second World War, she                             thing man can do.”                               directly responsible for saving the lives
                           struggled to leave her memories behind                                                                            of twelve people, but she took other risks
                           her. For decades Opdyke kept quiet about                            After the war, Opdyke married an              to provide food and assistance to many
                           her experiences in Poland under German                           American. They raised a daughter in              more. And she did it all despite being
                           and Russian occupation. No one could                             California, where Opdyke worked as               virtually powerless herself. Seen in close-
                           have guessed what an incredible story                            an interior decorator. She guarded her           up, her righteousness—taken almost for
                           she had to tell.                                                 memories until an encounter with the             granted in Irena’s Vow—turns out to be
                              In her memoir In My Hands: Memories                           shocking phenomenon of Holocaust de-             the product of extraordinarily difficult
                           of a Holocaust Rescuer (Knopf, 1999),                            nial convinced her it was time to bear           circumstances. At the point where Ire-
                           Opdyke describes her reaction to a vio-                          witness to the evil she had seen. So she         na’s Vow picks up the story, Opdyke had
                           lent pogrom:                                                     spoke to groups at schools, churches, and        already been captured by the Russians
                                                                                            synagogues. She told of how her fam-             twice, and had escaped twice. She was
                           We did not speak of what we had seen. At                         ily, and her country, suffered when the          underfed and faint with anemia when she
                           the time, to speak of it seemed worse than                       Germans invaded; how she was attacked            was hired by the German officer, Major
                           sacrilege: We had witnessed a thing so ter-
                                                                                            and raped by Russian soldiers; how she           Rügemer. And as she worked, she worried
                                                                                            was swept
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Description: She told of how her family, and her country, suffered when the Germans invaded; how she was attacked and raped by Russian soldiers; how she was swept up in a raid while she was at Mass and forced to work without pay in a German munitions factory. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the church provided unreliable moral support at a time when giving aid to Jews was a capital offense. [...] when she was reunited with some of her Jewish friends after the war, she enlisted their help to disguise herself as "Sonia Sofierstein," a fellow Jew, so that she could be admitted to a repatriation camp and, from there, find a way out of Europe, irena's Vow passes over most of this, giving no notion of the disorienta- tion and loneliness Opdyke experienced during the war.
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