Family can have many meanings. For most of us it constitutes the people we live with – our parents, siblings and children. It can also have meaning to friends that find to be more at home with their friends than with their biological family. But, family, can also consist of some very special people – people that put their own personal welfare aside for the greater good. And such is the case in “Nicky’s Family.”
“Nicky’s Family,” is an intriguing documentary that tells the story of young British gentleman that saved hundreds of children at the start of World War II. Nicholas Winton was a young, athletic stock broker working in England in the 1930’s. Although the political climate in Europe was poor as Hitler gained dominance over Austria and Czechoslovakia, Nicky was more interested in personal pursuits. It was such an occasion that opened Nicky’s eyes to the world around him.
On his way to ski in Switzerland, a friend cancelled due to the German invasion of Czechoslovakia and Nicky was intrigued and cancelled his trip to Switzerland and traveled to this beautiful country in Eastern Europe. The documentary does an excellent job of telling the political story of Germany’s advancement upon Czechoslovakia and how this advancement spelled certain chaos and doom to the Jewish inhabitants of this country. And through this documentary, it is easy to see why Nicky and other foreign visitors were contacted by the locals to help save their children.
Without real concern for his own safety, Nicky wrote to various agencies across the world asking for help. Sadly, most the world turned away from a chance to help the children that so desperately needed their help. Nicky’s own country, Great Britain, was the only country to spring into action and offer assistance.
It was a battle between bureaucracy and time to get as many children to Great Britain as possible. Czechoslovakian parents gave their children over to Nicky in order to save them, and it was upon Nicky and one secretary to find suitable homes and transport the children through Nazi Germany to freedom. At this point, no one knew of the horrors that the parents of these children would face. And as war time left and peace finally came, Nicky’s scrapbook and record of saving these children went into storage. With the humility that only comes with a very few, Nicky had no idea the impact he had. Nor did he know that his selflessness so long ago would spread into a world-wide lesson to save children in need.
“Nicky’s Family” is an engrossing and intriguing documentary. Not only does it tell the tale of Nicolas Winton and his selfless act, it tells of the early days of the Nazi expansion throughout Europe, the selfless deeds of countless parents – both Czechoslovakian and British. It also tells of the good of human nature despite desperate times and how this one good deed became contagious and still today inspires others to act for the sake of the children.
Although movie season for 2013 has just begun, I am putting “Nicky’s Family” on the top of my list of films to see. Bravo to the people in this world like Nicholas Winton and bravo to the filmmakers who have brought his story to the screen to inspire even more to do what is right for the children of this world.
“Nicky’s Family” is not rated and has a run-time of 1 hour and 36 minutes.
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Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones and no texting, please don’t talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don’t forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work at SilentHollywood.com