Polish Hero - Janusz Korczak

Janusz Korczak was an early champion of children’s rights in Warsaw, Poland. He ran an orphanage, and refused to abandon the children when they were evacuated to Treblinka.

My oldest son is a film buff, and he recently introduced me to a few Polish films. They are black and white, and in Polish with English subtitles. But I can recognize a few words now – Dzień dobry for good day or hello; Proszę or please, and Dziękuję Bardzo or thank you very much.

The latest movie recommendation is one on Netflix entitled Korczak. I just watched the first 45 minutes this evening; I’m intrigued with the story and will finish when it isn’t close to midnight. Since this movie was made in 1990 the quality is good, and much better than the set of three DVD’s by the same producer that my son recently bought for me. They were produced by the same man, but those were made in the 1950’s under communist censors and definitely have a far different bias.

Janusz Korczak was a well-respected pediatrician, children’s author and educator. He was often referred to as ‘Pan Doktor’ or ‘Mr. Doctor.’ He also ran an orphanage of nearly 200 children in Warsaw. During the 1930’s he had a popular radio program that championed children’s rights and had quite a bit of name recognition.  I’m told he was even mentioned in Władysław Szpilman’s memoir, The Pianist.  The Zegota underground repeatedly offered  him papers and tried to save him from the Warsaw ghetto, but he refused to leave the children. He was last seen with the children as they were evacuated to Treblinka. This short summary doesn’t do the story justice, but I’m still learning. Enter his name in a search engine, and lots of references show up.

Janusz Korczak was a pen name for his real name: Henryk Goldzmit. He was Jewish. I use the word ‘hero’ only because he is notable for standing up to the Gestapo  for his children when so many didn’t.

(And thank you to my son for supporting my quest for all things Polish.)