Nicky’s Family. Director, Screenplay, Producer: Matej Mináč
Having just watched the docudrama Nicky’s Family, I realize that I know several people who, like Sir Nicholas Winton – the hero of this story – are responsible for saving the lives of dozens, if not hundreds of children…and, as if that weren’t a sufficient good, each rescue has wonderful reverberations.
Providential events brought the young, British stockbroker, preparing for a skiing holiday, to travel instead to Prague, Czechoslovakia, just weeks just before Hitler’s invasion of the country. There, he was confronted with dozens, and soon hundreds, of Jewish parents forbidden to migrate themselves but desperate to get their children to safety. In that small window of opportunity, he worked at a feverish pace, until war ended any hope of escape. By that point, however, Nicholas Winton had found 669 child refugees homes with British families.
Life went on. Decades later, his wife discovered a scrapbook in the attic, filled with photos, letters, and mementos of these children, about whom she had known nothing. Nicholas gave her just enough information that, without his knowing, she was able, with help, to track down over 260 of those children, now adults.
A Jewish saying goes that to save one soul is to save the world. Many of those 260-some rescued children now have their own families – children and grandchildren – which account for over 5000 people who owe their lives to one young fellow refusing to be daunted by a difficult and dangerous project or discouraged that he could accomplish so relatively little in the face of such an enormous need. It was worth saving one person, if one person were all who could be saved.
The film intersperses touching vignettes of Sir Nicholas, the righteous gentile, speaking to his extensive Jewish “family” with images – some taken from film of that time and some dramatized – that drive home the depth of sacrifice the parents of these children shouldered. Unlike many other films about the Holocaust, the overall spirit is extremely optimistic, without losing sense of the suffering and injustices it caused. This would not be a bad introduction for children to the history of World War II.
(I.D. of rescued child)
It is also a reminder that those among us who spend themselves saving other lives do a much greater good than is apparent at first. Saving one child from the ideologically-driven purges of a racist or the ideologically-driven purges of an abortionist may seem like an insignificant act compared the numbers one cannot save but, there’s another Jewish proverb, that with each baby, the world begins anew. It doesn’t right the wrong but it certainly brings hope into an otherwise hopeless situation.
Nicky's Family is available on DVD and for downstreaming at Netflix. See excerpt here.
Spero columnist Stephanie Block is the author of the four-volume 'Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies', which is available at Amazon.