4 Inspiring Short Stories of Courage and Bravery
Published May 29, 2020
With all the negative stories we hear and read about nowadays, some of us may have thought that humans are hopeless. But these short stories of courage will restore your faith in humanity.
These stories feature ordinary people who choose to do the right thing even if it meant sacrificing their lives. They were not the strongest nor the richest but they all made hard choices. A choice which not only saved countless lives but also inspired the world – a priceless legacy that endures well beyond their death.
1. The Chernobyl Heroes
The Chernobyl disaster happened in 1986. But until now the area is still so radioactive that even plants can’t grow there.
On the day of the accident, the fire and steam explosion can be seen from several miles away. Two people were killed on the spot and 28 others died within a week from radioactive poisoning. But it could have killed more if not for the bravery of three men.
Alexi Ananenko, Valeri Bezpoalov, and Boris Baronov volunteered in what was to be a suicide mission. Because of the accident, the water pipes used for emergencies ruptured and flooded the plant’s basement. If this water mixed with the chemicals, it can result in an even graver explosion.
To prevent further disaster, they had to open a valve that would drain the water. But the valve was located right on the floor of the now radioactive waters. Clad in a scuba suit, they braved the waters knowing full well they could die. The three succeeded in their mission but succumbed to radiation poisoning days later. Because of their heroic actions, a huge disaster was averted and thousands of lives were saved.
2. Schindler’s List
If you’ve seen the film, you’re probably familiar with Oskar Schindler. For those who haven’t, he was a Nazi member who saved more than a thousand Jews during World War II.
At the onset, he’s the last person you’d expect to save Jews. Before the war, he was working as a spy for the Nazi party. In 1939, he acquired an enamel factory in Krakow, Poland which employed about a thousand Jews.
When the Nazi party started sending Jews to concentration camps, Schindler used his influence and his fortune to save his workers. He bribed Nazi officials with luxury items to spare his workers from deportation. By the end of the war, he had spent his entire fortune on bribes and purchasing supplies for his workers.
He did not just sacrifice his fortune. As a member of the Nazi party, he could die if his actions were to be discovered. When he died in 1974, he was buried in Mt. Zion in Israel – the only member of the Nazi Party to ever receive such honor.
3. Winton’s Children
Another remarkable albeit less popular wartime hero is British humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton. He organized the rescue of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II.
Though of Jewish descent, Sir Winton was relatively safe from German atrocities as he was working as a stockbroker in London. But when a friend urged him to cancel a skiing trip and head to the refugee camps in Czechoslovakia instead, he did not hesitate.
At that time, the UK has initiated a program called Kindertransport. Under this, unaccompanied Jewish children will be allowed entry into the country if they have a host family. The initiative saved about 10,000 children in Germany and Austria. But no such kind of program exists in Czechoslovakia. So Sir Winton created one.
It was a journey fraught with danger at every turn. He had to make bribes, forgery, and secret contacts with the Gestapo. Needless to say, it involves an awful lot of money and mountains of paperwork. Because of his work, Nazi agents also started to follow him.
He met with terrified parents wanting to get their children to safety even if it meant parting with them. Back home, his family was also looking for host families who are willing to accept these displaced children.
In the end, he was able to register about 900 children. Unfortunately, not all of them made it to London. The train carrying the last batch of children couldn’t make it out fast enough. When it departed, Hitler had already invaded Poland, and borders were immediately closed. The children in that ill-fated trip were thought to have perished in Auschwitz.
For almost five decades, Sir Winton kept mum about his war efforts – not even to his wife. It never occurred to him how important his work had been. When asked why he did it, he answered that the children needed rescue and he just did what needs to be done.
4. Fighting for the Amazon Rainforest
Not a lot of people have heard about Chico Mendes or his fight to protect the Amazon rainforest. But for his fellow Brazilian peasants in Xapuri, he is a hero.
Born to a second-generation rubber tapper, Mendes grew up illiterate. Plantation workers were often denied education. As a result, most of them couldn’t read nor write.
When he was 18, Mendes started to educate himself. His practice readings mostly came from newspaper clippings. The articles opened his eyes to the social injustices in Brazil, particularly to the plantation workers.
Wanting to improve their lot, Mendez started to teach his fellow rubber tappers how to read and write. He also initiated the creation of a Rural Workers Union which peacefully protested the continuous logging and burning of forest trees.
His efforts inspired rubber tappers all over the country and caught the attention of international environmental activists. He advocated various issues from deforestation to road paving. He also fought for the rights of rubber tappers to proper education.
Unsurprisingly, he made a lot of enemies and received death threats for years. Then on December 22, 1988, exactly a week after his 44th birthday, he was assassinated. The gunmen shot him at his home in Xapuri, in the presence of his wife and children.
Mendes’ death made international headlines and highlighted the injustices against rubber tappers. It also brought to light various environmental issues. This legitimized the struggle for the conservation of the world’s largest rainforest before a global audience. It also resulted in the formation of extractive reserves and various policy changes in support of Mendes’ activism.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to whole body donation and she wants to share her experience with the world. She also loves to write about food and art.