Inspiring stories can come from anywhere, whether that be from one of the darkest times in human history or on the set of a children's movie. So, what makes a story inspiring? It can be the pure grit and perseverance people show, selflessness to save others, lending a helping hand to someone in need, or simply being kind to those around you. In short, it's any story that makes you feel good and gives you a little extra hope in humanity.
During 2021 we have found stories that gave us these feelings, spanning through some of history's most tragic moments. Vote up the accounts you find most inspiring throughout history.
- 1689 VOTES
Eugene Lazowski Saved 8,000 People From Going To WWII Camps By Pretending They Had Typhus
As a young man fresh out of medical school in Poland, Eugene Lazowski couldn't turn his back on his Jewish neighbors. In fact, he risked his life on a daily basis to help those citizens when German forces invaded Poland. If a Jewish person required medical help for anything, the secret process of alerting the young doctor was to hang a rag on Lazowski's fence. Then, under the cover of darkness, he would visit them on a house call. He claimed that the oath he took in medical school required him to assist all people in need of medical attention, regardless of gender, race, or religion.
But that's not all young Lazowski did to help save his Jewish neighbors. While experimenting with bacterial injections, he discovered that if a person was given a vaccine containing dead epidemic typhus bacteria, they would in fact test positive for the disease but suffer no adverse effects. Because the soldiers deporting Jews wouldn't want to suffer a deadly outbreak at any of the camps, they wouldn't bother taking those afflicted. Lazowski injected this vaccine into many people within his town, triggering a quarantine for the area, and saving about 8,000 people from suffering the horrific conditions of concentration camps.
Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow was a larger-than-life figure in the wrestling world throughout the 1980s and '90s. While he was known for the flame tattoo covering his bald head, the symbolism of that tattoo would hold a much larger meaning after a fateful night in 2000.
Bigelow was arriving home from a wrestling trip when he noticed a fire just down the road from his house. After hearing screams, he began bursting through the house's doors - even running through a wall to get to the victims. In his own words:
When I finally made it upstairs, I grabbed the three kids and came back through the same fire, and now I was on fire.
While he saved the children's lives, he didn't walk away unscathed. Bigelow ended up burning 40% of his body, and was hospitalized for two months. When asked of his personal sacrifice, he said, "I did what anybody would have tried to do."
- 3463 VOTES
Danish People Helped Hide And Evacuate Thousands Of Their Jewish Neighbors, Saving 90% Of Danish Jews During World War II
During a time where 6 million Jewish lives were lost, it's astounding that more than 90% of Jews living in Denmark survived the reign of the Third Reich. When news began to spread that Danish Jews were scheduled to be forcibly evacuated to the camps, their Danish neighbors decided to work together to save them for the fate that awaited them. People began urging all Jews in the area to hide or flee quickly, and helped them do that successfully.
By using the safe haven offered by nearby Sweden, Jewish people stowed away on small boats making the trek. It's estimated 7,200 lives were saved by successfully making it to Sweden during the rushed escape. Most Danes refused to take credit for their heroism after the war, but the ordinary folks of Denmark are in large part responsible for saving thousands of lives.
- 4588 VOTES
Rick Rescorla, A Morgan Stanley Employee, Guided 2,700 People To Safety - But Did Not Survive The 2001 Attack On The Twin Towers
Rick Rescorla was director of security for the Morgan Stanley financial services firm at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He was 62 years old and had been fighting prostate cancer.
At 8:46 am, Rescorla was on the 44th floor of the South Tower when he watched the North Tower burn. His training from his military service in the Vietnam War came flooding back, and he ignored announcements from the public address system telling people to stay at their desks.
Instead, Rescorla started evacuating mass numbers of Morgan Stanley employees. While directing them down the stairwell, he sang Cornish songs from his youth, just like he did in Vietnam, to boost morale.
Rescorla was last seen on the 10th floor, heading back up to find more people, when the building collapsed with him inside.
Covering a span of 22 floors, Rescorla helped evacuate 2,700 people - a testament to how much impact one man's life can have.
- 5324 VOTES
Chana Gronowski Helped Her 11-Year-Old Son Simon Off The Train That Was Taking Them To Auschwitz
Germany invaded Belgium in 1940 - and with German occupation ultimately came the deportation of Belgian Jews.
In 1943, 11-year-old Simon Gronowski and his mother Chana were among the deportees from Brussels forced on a train bound for the Auschwitz concentration camp.
After the train departed the station, the Belgian Resistance made themselves a nuisance to the train operators, who suddenly deployed the brakes. Members of the resistance then cut open one of the train doors, and 17 imprisoned people managed to escape.
The train began to move again, and Chana was determined to get her son off the train before it was too late. As Simon shared decades later, his mother lowered him into a hole in the train:
My mother held me by my shirt and my shoulders. But at first, I did not dare to jump because the train was going too fast for me. I saw the trees go by and the train was getting faster. The air was crisp and cool and the noise was deafening. I remember feeling surprised that it could go so fast with 35 cars being towed. But then at a certain moment, I felt the train slow down. I told my mother: "Now I can jump." She let me go and I jumped off.
He would never see his mother again.
Free from the train, Gronowski ran into the woods and kept walking until he came across a village. There, he asked a woman for help, and she took him to the local police station.
The police officer didn't turn him in to German officials. Instead, Gronowski recalled the officer told him, "I know everything. You were in the Jewish train and you escaped. You don't need to worry. We are good Belgians, we won't betray you." He sent the young boy home to Brussels.
Back in Brussels, Gronowski was reunited with his father, who had been at a hospital when German officials stormed the family's home and arrested Simon and Chana.
- 6565 VOTES
After Enduring The Trail Of Tears Years, The Choctaw Sent Ireland Money During The Great Famine
Two years after Ireland's Great Famine began, US President Abraham Lincoln made a $10 donation to the country, which equates to roughly $500 today. However, the Choctaw tribe made a donation that far exceeded that amount.
The Choctaw tribe raised $170 and send it to the Irish in the hopes that it would ease some of their suffering. They managed this successful fundraiser despite themselves living in poverty and hardship.
The Choctaw people may have heard about the Great Famine from an Irish man who had been implementing the forced displacement of tribes during the “Trail of Tears.” Once the contribution was collected, the Choctaw gave it to a philanthropist who forwarded the funds to Dublin, Ireland for use in buying blankets, food, and feed for livestock.
This charitable act did not go unnoticed. In 2017, a sculpture called “The Kindred Spirits” was erected in Cork, Ireland to honor the donation from the Choctaw people.