Premiere of The Courageous Heart...
An exceptional event took place on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II in Gdańsk – the European premiere of the film The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Dzieci Ireny Sendlerowej) by John Kent Harrison.
There were many distinguished guests at the premiere, including Lech Kaczyński, President of the Republic of Poland; Bogdan Zdrojewski, Minister of Culture and National Heritage; Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Affairs and the Diaspora; plus filmmakers – the director, John Kent Harrison; composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, and actors – Anna Paquin, Marcia Gay Harden, Maja Ostaszewska, and Danuta Stenka.
The film, based on the book Mother of the Holocaust Children by Anna Mieszkowska, tells the story of an extraordinary Pole, Irena Sendler, who, with a group of collaborators during World War II, conducted a daring and dangerous campaign to save children from the Warsaw ghetto. She managed to save over 2,500 of them.
President Kaczyński expressed his admiration for the work of the Polish heroine “There were not many Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust,” the President said before the premiere. “Among them, there was one distinguished person, a small and fragile woman: Irena Sendler. She was awarded for her actions with long life, but it is not enough. This person deserves the biggest world awards.”
The film is not the first contact with Polish history for John Kent Harrison. In 2005 he produced the film Pope John Paul II (Jan Paweł II) with John Voight in the main role. When he read the book by Anna Mieszkowska, he knew immediately that he wanted to make a film based on it.
“I found out that this is a wonderful story worth telling to people around the world,” Harrison said during a news conference. “Despite the fact that I am neither a Pole nor a Jew, I have always been interested in relations between the Jews and the Poles during war. And maybe because I knew little about this topic, I cared enough to get deeper into it.”
Anna Paquin, playing the main character, underlined how important it is to get people acquainted with Irena Sendler, “I had no idea about the existence of such person as Irena Sendler before I received a proposal to play in this film,” said the actress. “She saved 2,500 human beings! I hope that owing to this film, more people will hear about this wonderful person.”
“We dedicate this film to all the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’,” declared Agnieszka Odorowicz, General Director of the Polish Film Institute which co-financed the film, referring to the official title awarded by Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. “When Mrs Irena Sendler was invited to various celebrations, she always repeated: ‘Remember that I was only one out of so many.’ Madame Irena, we remember.”
Irena Sendler died on 12 May 2008, aged 98.
Translated by Monika Miziniak | Edited by Patricia Koza