Elizabethtown College High Library Houses “Rescuers”
Josef Mironiuk poses next to a cart of gardening tools, a plastic watering can and grass-stained bucket of Decoral in the foreground. Against the emerald greens, sanguine reds and baby blanket pinks that dapple the garden, Mironiuk stands prostrate in a slate gray sweater, crisp white button down and pressed navy trousers. His eyes stare beyond the camera lens.
The picture, snapped by Polish photographer Sonia Folkmann, fills the top half of a six-foot tapestry. Beneath grass and cobblestone and polished loafers, Mironiuk’s story is told in five short paragraphs. It’s the story of a 20-odd-year-old Pole who, along with his family, delivered bread and fat to concentration camps, and who sheltered an escaped girl in his family barn.
Mironiuk’s story, along with almost 20 others, occupies The High Library at Elizabethtown College. Through Feb. 8, the Winter Alcove welcomes students, faculty and community members to bear witness to courageous individuals from Rwanda, Western Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cambodia who offered solace to the targets of genocide.
They’re everyday heroes.”
“Picturing Moral Courage: The Rescuers” was developed by PROOF: Media for Social Justice. “The Rescuers” is just one of many photojournalistic projects that advocates for justice, truth and peace. PROOF Founder and Executive Director Leora Kahn began “The Rescuers” in 2006 as a peace-building project in Rwanda.
“It was to show positive, pro-social behavior and to provide role models for people in Rwanda,” Kahn said.
Though the exhibit began in a country that barely exceeds 25,000 square kilometers in size, it has since traveled the world. The Rescuers have told their stories in Spain, Cambodia and Bosnia thanks to local organizations and U.S. Embassies.
Currently, “The Rescuers” exhibit is touring U.S. colleges and high schools through a sponsorship by Yale University. E-town is just one of many stops along the way.
Access Services Librarian Amy Magee is responsible for bringing “The Rescuers” to the College. Inspired by a workshop she attended where a speaker discussed similarities between Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Magee researched exhibits about social justice aimed at college communities.
“The exhibit is a good and timely reminder that the decision to help others can be made at all levels of society, and that everyday people can make a tremendous difference in the lives of people in need,” Magee said.
Instruction and Outreach Librarian Joshua Cohen said he shared Magee’s sentiments.
“The stories that are usually told about the genocides that occurred during the 20th century don’t tend to highlight the courage of ordinary people who risked their lives to save others,” he said. “I like the fact that this exhibit highlights those experiences and makes us reflect on what kinds of actions we might take if we were in similar circumstances.”
Even though more than a decade has passed since the project’s inception, and several years have passed since some of the subjects put their lives in danger, Kahn said she still feels the stories told through the exhibit reflect today’s world. Kahn believes that in the U.S., the stories become allegories for bullying and social justice.
“I don’t have to see an injustice happen,” Kahn said, channeling the persona of an impressionable mind at the exhibit. “I have the ability to speak out.”
Though The Rescuers have a tour around the country to complete, and international travel in their future, their legacy will cling to every building they enter.
“They’re everyday heroes,” Kahn said. “They are not the Schindlers, they are not the famous people that have agency. They’re ordinary, everyday people […] these ordinary people are extraordinary.”