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We Were the Lucky Ones


Joey King stars in this sprawling drama set amid the horrors of the Holocaust

Author Georgia Hunter was 15 years old when she learned of her grandfather’s history during the Second World War. “I grew up very close with my grandfather, and he never talked about the fact that he grew up in Poland and that he came from a family of Holocaust survivors,” she says. “That is a piece of his history that I discovered a year after he died.” As part of a high school history assignment, she interviewed her grandmother Caroline, who told her about Addy Kurc’s career as a composer in Paris, and how the war prompted him to flee to South America. “It came as quite a surprise, as you can imagine, and it sparked a lot of curiosity,” says Hunter.

We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney+. Pictured: The Kurc family (left to right) Nechuma
(Robin Weigert), Halina (Joey King), Mila (Hadas Yaron), Selim (Michael Aloni),
Herta (Moran Rosenblatt), Genek (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and Jakob (Amit Rahav).

Over the course of a decade, Hunter gathered stories about her family’s experiences during the Holocaust. “They were stories unlike anything I’d ever heard before: a baby born in Siberia, a hike over the Austrian Alps, a mother and daughter’s escape from the ghetto, false IDs, a disguised circumcision — the stories kept coming and coming,” she explains. “I remember thinking, someone needs to write these down.” In 2017, she released the book We Were the Lucky Ones.

We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney+. Pictured: Halina (Joey King) after being apprehended by Soviet soldiers.

In the hands of Hamilton director Thomas Kail and The Morning Show producer Erica Lipez, Hunter’s family history comes to life in an eight-episode limited series that spans the globe. The Kurc story begins in Radom, Poland, where the close-knit Jewish family lives a prosperous and peaceful life until the late 1930s. “I had a pretty good education about the Holocaust, and when I read Georgia’s book, I was, like, ‘I’ve never seen this chapter of history,’” says Lipez. “It was such an intimate story told through this one family. And I was really moved to see 12 Jewish characters at the centre of this story. That was very compelling to me.”

We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney+. Pictured: Oldest Kurc sibling Genek (Henry

The series stars Joey King (The Act) as Halina Kurc, the youngest of five siblings, and Logan Lerman (Hunters) as her brother Addy. For the Jewish actors, though decades before their time, the narrative experienced by these characters felt deeply personal. “My character, Addy, goes on a years-long journey trying to get to South America. My family had a similar story and ended up in China,” reveals Lerman. “That element was really appealing to me because I haven’t seen that side of this history explored. It was something where I was able to bring my family and my identity, my cultural background to this.”

We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney+. Pictured: Middle sibling Addy (Logan Lerman), who’s living in Paris pursuing a career as a composer.

While filming the series, King found herself getting verklempt in moments she did not expect. “You’ve got to take a step back, sometimes, when you’re so close to it because that emotion seeps through the cracks and it’s overwhelming,” says the actress. “While filming, I got really emotional, not [during scenes] you feel like you would. Just very simple scenes. It hits you out of nowhere.” These emotions, believes King, stemmed in part from the intense preparation she and the cast went through to play their roles. “We were watching so many things to prepare, always finding new Shoah interviews and listening to them while preparing for scenes. It was a lot to take in, but it also was really beautiful to listen to these survivors’ stories.”

We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney+. Pictured: Herta (Moran Rosenblatt) and husband Genek (Henry Lloyd-Hughes).

For King, 24, being able to educate a new generation on a moment in history that cannot afford to be forgotten was particularly meaningful. “My generation — Gen Z — they don’t really know or care about the Holocaust,” says the actress. “I think that it’s super important to share, with my generation and generations to come, the sadness that has been experienced throughout history. And it’s really nice to be able to be part of something that’s not only educational, but you just really love this family while you’re watching it. You want to know what’s going to happen with them. And it’s all true, which is incredible.”

We Were the Lucky Ones on Disney+. Pictured: Amit Rahav is Jakob, a law student with a passion for photography.

Though set in the 1940s, the series, unfortunately, feels more timely than ever. “This is about what happens when hate goes unchecked,” says Lerman. “You can apply that to current times and the future. For me, it’s about empathizing with refugees in any conflict, people that are just trying to seek safety.” But what ultimately shocked the series creators was how, 80 years after the events first took place, some of the antisemitic attitudes experienced during the Second World War have made a comeback. “You hope you might make something that has relevance, but you don’t really want it to be timely in this way,” says Lipez. “It’s devastating, but I think living alongside this family altered me fundamentally as a person. In some ways, I’m a much sadder person confronting this chapter of history and thinking about what we can do to each other as human beings. But I’m also a much more hopeful person. This show does have a lot of love in it, and I hope that that is felt.”

We Were the Lucky Ones, streaming on Disney+

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