press_release_pic_01_wm_thumb.jpgThe Courageous Heart Of Irena Sendler is a made-for-TV movie based upon the true story of Irena Sendler. It will premiere in the USA via the CBS Television Network on April 19, 2009 from 21:00 to 23:00 ET/PT.

Anna Paquin plays Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who is credited with saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children during World War II in Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto. Marcia Gay Harden plays Sendler’s mother, Janina, and Nat portrays Dr. Majkowski, the head of Warsaw’s Department of Health who supported Sendler by supplying her with important resources for her mission. Goran Visnjic plays Stefan, a former fellow student who is Jewish. They fall in love as she starts her underground work in the Warsaw ghetto.

Since the broadcast in the USA is still a few days away, I thought it fitting to gather more information about Irena Sendler and a few promo pictures to give you an idea what this project is all about.


When World War II broke out, Irena Sendler was a 29-year-old Catholic social worker in Warsaw. By risking her own life, she helped smuggle numerous Jews out of the ghetto to the Aryan side and set up hiding places for them. She used her professional contacts to hide Jewish children in orphanages and institutes for abandoned children. The children sometimes needed to be sedated and hidden inside boxes, suitcases and coffins as a means of rescuing them sharply before their deportation to the death camps. She created and led a conspiracy of women who moved in and out of Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto disguised as nurses employed by Warsaw’s Health Department. Though they worked under the guise of merely attempting to prevent and contain the spread of Typhus and Spotted Fever, Irena Sendler and her brave troops emerged each time with the children of consenting Jewish parents.

 Anna Paquin (Irena Sendler)
and Goran Visnjic (Stefan)

 Marcia Gay Harden (right) plays Janina.
Janina comforts one
of the children (Rebecca Windheim).
Rebecca Windheim
and Anna Paquin

Marcia Gay Harden
and Anna Paquin
All Photos: Eric Heilila/Hallmark Hall of Fame.
©2008 Hallmark Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.

She was arrested in October 1943, but she managed to hide incriminating evidence before her arrest, including the coded addresses of children that she had hidden and large sums of money to pay to those who helped Jews. She was tortured by Gestapo agents and suffered broken feet. She was sentenced to death and sent to prison, but underground activists managed to bribe officials to release her (this activity is being related to “Zegota,” the underground network with which she worked to save the Jewish children). After her release in February 1944, she continued her self-forgetting activities and went into hiding.

Anna Paquin
as Irena Sendler

Nathaniel Parker
as Dr. Majkowski
All Photos: Eric Heilila/Hallmark Hall of Fame.
©2008 Hallmark Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.

The rescued children were given new identities and placed with Polish families and in catholic convents. Irena Sendler’s hidden record of birth names and the children’s hiding places later on helped to reunite them with their own families. Please read more about Irena Sendlerowa and her legacy.

 Irena Sendler
in 1943 and 2007


"To save one life is as if you have saved the world"
The Talmud

As a result of Irena Sendler’s extraordinary courage, approximately 2,500 children were saved. Not one of her rescued children got killed because its camouflage was unveiled during the Nazi reign. On October 19, 1965, Yad Vashem recognized Irena Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations. The tree planted in her honour is located at the entrance to the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem. More information about Irena Sendler and the Righteous Among the Nations can be found at Yad Vashem's website.

Irena Sendler died on May 12, 2008 at the age of 98. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev remarked upon her death: “Irena Sendler’s courageous activities rescuing Jews during the Holocaust serve as a beacon of light to the world, inspiring hope and restoring faith in the innate goodness of mankind.”

Don’t miss this remarkable re-telling of history on CBS Sunday, 19th April 2009. Please make sure to check your local TV schedules for correct broadcast dates.

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