Is Halina Kurc Based on an Actual Polish Jew? What Happened to Her?

In Hulu’s World War II series ‘We Were the Lucky Ones,’ Halina is the youngest Kurc sibling who displays her courage and resilience when her family members get separated due to Germany’s invasion of Poland. Halina doesn’t hesitate to put her life on the line to track down her brothers or accompany Bella, the partner of her sibling Jakob, to Soviet-occupied Poland. The historical show is a television adaptation of Georgia Hunter’s eponymous novel and Halina is based on the sister of the author’s grandfather, who is none other than Addy Kurc. The real Halina was as brave and determined as her television counterpart!

The Inspiring Halina

After World War II began, Halina ended up in Soviet-Occupied Poland, where she got a job as a technician’s assistant at a military hospital. Even though she was separated from her siblings, Halina was able to remain with her husband Adam. However, the couple’s lives turned around when Adam ended up in a work camp. Halina had to transform herself into a German woman with a fake ID to rescue her husband from the place. Whenever the Kurcs suffered, Halina tried her best to be helpful. She didn’t let her parents rot much in a ghetto as she was able to corrupt a guard to ensure her father Sol and mother Nechuma’s release.

Sol and Nechuma were able to protect themselves in the Polish countryside due to Halina’s intervention. However, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t suffer. She was imprisoned in a jail in Krakow, where she had to deal with beatings. Halina had to pretend to be a non-Jew once again to ensure her survival. One of her major achievements was leading Sol, Nechuma, her sister Mila, and the latter’s daughter Felicia to Italy. They had to cross the Austrian Alps relying on their legs alone. Mila’s husband Selim and Halina’s brother Genek were waiting for their family on the other side. Halina achieved this feat while she was pregnant.

Hunter was able to find Halina’s accounts to craft her storyline in the novel. “I was also very fortunate to have access to the priceless first-hand accounts of what Halina, Felicia, and Maryla [who goes by Bella in the book] went through to survive, courtesy of the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive,” the author told Penguin Random House. Even though Halina’s saga is deeply rooted in reality, the writer did integrate elements of fiction into it.

“I thought hard about writing my book as narrative non-fiction. Thanks to my research, the significant events of my family’s past—which to me were the most important aspects of the story to capture and convey—were there. I found, however, that I wanted the Kurcs’ journey to feel immersive and visceral, for my readers to imagine for themselves what it meant to be Jewish and on the run in WWII—and to do that I needed more ‘connective tissue.’ I needed the colorful details that would add more depth and emotion to my story,” Hunter added.

Halina’s Life After Survival

Halina, like her parents and siblings, survived World War II with her husband Adam and their son Ricardo. The family moved to Brazil with Sol and Nechuma and Mila and Selim to reunite with Addy. Even though Ricardo was born in Naples, Italy, Halina didn’t want her son to carry any connection to Europe. “[…] a few months after the family arrived in Rio, Halina conveniently ‘lost’ [Ricardo’s] Italian birth certificate and applied for a new one. When Brazilian naturalization officials asked her son’s age, Halina lied and said he’d been born in August, on Brazilian soil,” Hunter wrote in ‘We Were the Lucky Ones.’

Halina (middle) with Sol, Ricardo, and Nechuma//Image Credit: We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter/Facebook

São Paulo became the new home of Halina and her family. Still, she often visited her brother Addy in the United States. “[…] the only relative of [Addy’s] generation that I knew by name was Halina, a sister with whom he was especially close. She visited a few times, from São Paulo,” Hunter added. In 1948, Halina welcomed Anna, Ricardo’s sister. Nechuma and Sol lived with their youngest daughter as well. Halina was grateful for the help she received from her employer Herr Den during the war. To repay his kindness, she didn’t forget to send him checks after settling in Brazil.

Read More: What Happened to the Kurc Family in Real Life? Did They Survive?