Tag Archives: Warsaw

World on Fire Character Review: Kasia Tomaszeski

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. War changes our fate like nothing else can. Forced to make decisions that would never even be considered in peacetime, we know that the chance of not surviving is high. In World on Fire, Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichłacz) is a young woman without a care in the world. Working as a waitress and living in Warsaw with her family, she is also in love with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), an English translator who is working in the city.

Then the Germans invade and her world is forever changed. When her father and brother, Grzegorz (Mateusz Wieclawek) join the Polish army, Kasia has two excruciating choices. Now married to Harry, she can go with him to England, not knowing his complicated love life. Or, she can stay and fight for her country.

Choosing to join the Polish Underground, Kasia sends her little brother to England in her stead. Driven by her mother’s murder, she knows that she could be betrayed, captured, tortured, and killed at any moment. But it is a risk that must be taken to free Poland. When we last see Kasia, she is reunited with Harry, but they are surrounded by German soldiers, their fate unknown.

To sum it up: The decisions Kasia makes are far from easy. The consequences, whatever they maybe, are at best, dangerous, and at worst, deadly. But for her it is the only choice. For her family, for her country, and most of all, for herself.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, History, Television

World on Fire Character Review: Nancy Campbell

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

The job of a journalist is to report the facts and let the public decide how to react. The problem is that in some countries and under some governments, the facts are dangerous.

On World on Fire, Nancy Campbell is an American journalist whose job is her life. In 1939, Nancy is in Warsaw when the Germans invade Poland. Returning to Berlin, she does her job as she has always done. But she also knows enough to know that war is coming. She tries to convince her closeted nephew, Webster O’ Connor (Brian J. Smith) to leave Europe while the borders are still open. But Webster decides to stay.

In Berlin, she is friendly with her neighbors and the army officers who she must interact with as part of her job. The journalist in her wants to report what she is seeing. But she is held back by her German supervisors who are towing the party line and need to make sure that only their version of the truth is released.

Nancy knows the risks she takes when she is determined reveal everything that she is seeing and experiencing. But in her eyes, it must be done, in spite of the personal costs she may have to pay.

To sum it up: Sometime doing the right thing requires going against everyone and everything around you. It is easy to be silent and pretend that everything is fine. It is harder to follow your own instincts. When Nancy makes the difficult and dangerous decision to speak the truth, she is standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Harry Chase

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire.  Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

War has a way of making those who live through it grow up quickly. Youth and inexperience, simply due one’s experience, gives way to maturity brought on extraordinary circumstances. On World on Fire, Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King) is a young man at the beginning of World War II. He is idealistic, romantic, and eager to see the world. He is also dating Lois Bennett (Julia Brown). Their relationship ends when he is offered a job in Poland.

A talented translator, he takes a job in Warsaw and gets involved with Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichlacz). All seems well until the Germans invade. Harry knows that the only way to save Kasia’s life is to marry her and get her to England. The question is, how will he explain all of this not just to Lois, but to his mother, Robina (Lesley Manville)?

At the train station, Kasia does not get on the train with Harry. Instead, she shoves her baby brother into the train car and watches as the train leaves the station. Back home, Harry has to faces a brokenhearted Lois and his mother, who is shocked by the presence of the boy he is traveling with. After a one night stand with Lois, she gets pregnant. But she does not tell him that they are to become parents.

Returning Europe, he joins the battle at Dunkirk and then goes back to Poland to find his wife. Their joy at being united is all too brief when they are surrounded by German soldiers.

Starts at 3:04

To sum it up: Harry’s character arc is an interesting one. He is not completely naïve, but his perspective comes from the relatively comfortable left he has led up to this point. The war changes all of that. He still retains some of that idealism. However, he learns to fight for what he believes in and who he loves, and what it takes to lead.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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The Zookeeper’s Wife Movie Review

One of my favorite quotes from the Talmud is as follows:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.

Jan and Antonina Żabiński saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during World War II.

Their story is chronicled in the new film, The Zookkeeper’s Wife, (which is based upon the book of the same name). Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife, Antonina (Jessica Chastain) are the caretakers of the Warsaw Zoo. When the Germans invade Poland and start to slowly tighten the noose around Jan and Antonina’s Jewish friends and neighbors, they make the bold and very dangerous decision to help as many survive as they can. Their task is made harder by Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a colleague who has joined the Nazis and whose feelings for Antonina go beyond the professional sphere.

Can Antonina and Jan continue to save lives or will they be caught and killed by the Germans?

While this movie is a bit on the long side, I very much enjoyed it. Movies about the Holocaust are normally focused on the victims and survivors, not based on those who were brave enough to defy the Germans and attempt to save lives. In focusing on Jan and Antonina, I was reminded that even in times of extreme darkness, there is still light, courage and hope in the world.

I recommend it.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is presently in theaters.

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A Train To Warsaw Book Review: An Intense And Powerful Look At The Holocaust

The Holocaust is such a powerful and overwhelming subject that sometimes, it seems almost impossible to make it human and real.

Gwen Edelman’s new book, The Train To Warsaw, starts 40 years after the end of World War II. Jascha and Lilka met and fell in love in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Escaping the ghetto separately, they reunite in London. Four decades after the war, Jascha has become a celebrated novelist. He has been invited back to Warsaw to give a reading of his book.  While Lilka is eager to go and wants to relive her childhood, Jascha refuses, for he sees no reason to return.

Lilka wins and they travel in the middle of bitterly cold December back to Warsaw. Intertwined in their intimate conversations are the memories of their lives before and during the war, the family, friends and neighbors whose lives were taken and the Poles who were eager to work with the Nazis in reaching their goals. A secret is revealed towards the end of the novel, causing the characters to wonder if they can still trust each other.

I’ve read many Holocaust books, but this book is different. It is intimate and human. Instead of dealing the very daunting subject of the Holocaust as a whole, Ms. Edelman focuses on her two main characters who have different memories of their lives in Warsaw.  Lilka and Jascha’s relationship feels normal and loving, despite the hardships they have endured.

I recommend this book.

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