The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler is a 2009 television film directed by John Kent Harrison
John Kent Harrison
John Kent Harrison is a television producer, director and writer.Harrison was educated at Columbia University and at Appleby College in Canada....

. The film is a co-production between United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 companies. The teleplay by Harrison and Lawrence John Spagnola, based on the 2005 biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 The Mother of the Holocaust Children by Anna Mieszkowska, focuses on Irena Sendler
Irena Sendler
Irena Sendler was a Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Żegota resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II...

, a Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 social work
Social work
Social Work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual, group, or community by intervening through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, and teaching on behalf of those afflicted with poverty or any real or...

er who smuggled approximately 2,500 Jewish children to safety during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


The Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City based greeting card company. The second longest-running television program in the history of television, it has a historically long run, beginning in 1951 and continuing into 2011...

production, which was filmed on location in Riga, Latvia, was broadcast by CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 on April 19, 2009, and released to DVD in Hallmark Gold Crown stores in early June of that year.


Irena Sendler (née
NEE is a political protest group whose goal was to provide an alternative for voters who are unhappy with all political parties at hand in Belgium, where voting is compulsory.The NEE party was founded in 2005 in Antwerp...

 Krzyżanowska) is a Catholic social worker who has sympathized with the Jews since her childhood, when her physician father died of typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

 contracted while treating poor Jewish patients. When she initially proposes saving Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto
Warsaw Ghetto
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established in the Polish capital between October and November 15, 1940, in the territory of General Government of the German-occupied Poland, with over 400,000 Jews from the vicinity...

, her idea is met with skepticism by fellow workers, her parish priest, and even her own mother Janina.

Using forged identification to present herself as a nurse to guards at the entrance to the enclave where the Jewish population has been sequestered, Irena tries to convince the parents of young children to allow her to smuggle them out to safety. Many fear they will never see them again, and she assures them she will document where each child is sent to facilitate their reunion with their parents once the war is over. Others bemoan the fact their children will be raised in a faith other than their own and forget their religious beliefs and traditions, but Irena convinces them this is a small price to pay in exchange for keeping them alive.

Among those helping Irena is Stefan, a Jewish friend from her university days. He is aware of a few overlooked exits from the ghetto and uses this knowledge to help Irena and others involved with the underground organization Żegota
"Żegota" , also known as the "Konrad Żegota Committee", was a codename for the Polish Council to Aid Jews , an underground organization of Polish resistance in German-occupied Poland from 1942 to 1945....

 plan their strategies and devise routes to smuggle the children, some in boxes hidden under bricks on wheelbarrows, others through sewer systems, and still others brazenly escorted through the front door of the city hall
City hall
In local government, a city hall, town hall or a municipal building or civic centre, is the chief administrative building of a city...

 hand-in-hand with their savior.

Eventually Irena is arrested by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 and placed in captivity, where she frequently undergoes interrogation accompanied by torture, but she refuses to name those who helped her. She is sentenced to death by firing squad, but at the last moment a guard, bribed by the Polish resistance movement of Home Army, frees her. After briefly visiting her ailing mother, Irena is taken to a remote rural farm, where she is reunited with Stefan.

In an epilogue
An epilogue, epilog or afterword is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama, usually used to bring closure to the work...

, we learn Irena and Stefan eventually married and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 in 2007. In a taped interview, real-life Irena discusses her wartime efforts and pays tribute to the mothers who selflessly agreed to separate from their children and the women who provided them with a safe haven.


  • Anna Paquin
    Anna Paquin
    Anna Helene Paquin is a Canadian-born New Zealand actress. Paquin's first critically successful film was The Piano, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1994 at the age of 11 – the second youngest winner in history...

     ..... Irena Sendler
  • Marcia Gay Harden
    Marcia Gay Harden
    Marcia Gay Harden is an American film and theatre actress. Harden's breakthrough role was in Miller's Crossing and then The First Wives Club which was followed by several roles which gained her wider fame including the hit comedy Flubber and Meet Joe Black...

     ..... Janina Krzyżanowska
  • Goran Visnjic
    Goran Višnjic
    Goran Višnjić is a Croatian actor who has appeared in American and British films and television productions. He is best known for his role as Dr. Luka Kovač in the hit television series ER...

     ..... Stefan
  • Nathaniel Parker
    Nathaniel Parker
    Nathaniel Parker is an English actor best known for playing Detective Inspector Thomas "Tommy" Lynley in the BBC crime drama series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.-Personal life:...

     ..... Dr. Majkowski
  • Michelle Dockery
    Michelle Dockery
    Michelle Dockery is an English actress of stage and screen. She has become best known for her role as Lady Mary Crawley in the ITV drama series Downton Abbey...

     ..... Ewa Rozenfeld
  • Steve Speirs ..... Piotr
  • Iddo Goldberg
    Iddo Goldberg
    Iddo Goldberg is an English-Israeli actor.Goldberg was born in Haifa, Israel. He has had several notable roles, including playing Ben on the television show Secret Diary of a Call Girl. He also appeared in the 2008 war film Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber.-Actor:-External links:...

     ..... Jakub Rozenfeld
  • Paul Freeman ..... Monsignor Godlewski
  • Danny Webb
    Danny Webb (actor)
    Danny Webb is a British television and film actor. He may be best known for his role as the prisoner Morse in Alien 3. He has appeared in many famous British television programmes including The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Emmerdale Farm, Our Friends in the North, A Touch of Frost, Agatha...

     ..... Trojan
  • Krzysztof Pieczyński ..... Dr. Janusz Korczak
    Janusz Korczak
    Janusz Korczak, the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit was a Polish-Jewish children's author, and pediatrician known as Pan Doktor or Stary Doktor...

  • Leigh Lawson
    Leigh Lawson
    Leigh Lawson is a film and stage actor, director, and writer.-Career:Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Lawson has acted in film and television since the early 1970s, directed plays in the West End and on Broadway...

     ..... Rabbi Rozenfeld
  • Maja Ostaszewska
    Maja Ostaszewska
    Maja Ostaszewska is a Polish actress.She was born in Kraków, the daughter of Polish musician Jacek Ostaszewski of Ostoja coat of arms. She started her acting training in her native Kraków and later graduated from PWST, in 1996...

     ..... Jadwiga
  • Danuta Stenka
    Danuta Stenka
    Danuta Stenka is a Polish actress.-Selected filmography:-External links:...

     ..... Hannah Rozenfeld
  • Olga Bołądź ..... Zofia

Critical reception

Ginia Bellafante of The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

said the film "recounts her story with none of the zeal, passion, terror and chaos that her mission involved" and added, "The producers strive for a solemnity that cannot be called maudlin . . . and wind up with something that feels lazy, as if they believed the project's noble goals were enough to carry it."

John Maynard of the Washington Post observed, "Comparisons to Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

's Schindler's List are inevitable . . . Of course, no TV movie could offer the beauty and complexity of Spielberg's Oscar-winning film, but Courageous Heart . . . is equally engaging on a smaller scale, full of small, poignant moments."

Daniel Carlson of The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter
Formerly a daily trade magazine, The Hollywood Reporter re-launched in late 2010 as a unique hybrid publication serving the entertainment industry and a consumer audience...

said, "It's not that the telefilm is necessarily bad; it's that co-writer and director John Kent Harrison only occasionally manages to imbue the story with the requisite tension and emotional strife deserving of one of the darkest chapters in history. There are a few harrowing moments that skillfully bring home the human and emotional cost of the war, but mostly the TV movie plays like too many other things we've seen before."

Variety (magazine)
Variety is an American weekly entertainment-trade magazine founded in New York City, New York, in 1905 by Sime Silverman. With the rise of the importance of the motion-picture industry, Daily Variety, a daily edition based in Los Angeles, California, was founded by Silverman in 1933. In 1998, the...

called the film "taut, emotional and compelling" and added, "Granted, the movie only sparingly touches upon the depth of the Nazi atrocities, and the evidence of them toward the end - brutal as it is - proves relatively tame in light of what transpired. Yet as directed by John Kent Harrison . . . there's persistent tension throughout the movie."

External links

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