Then and now

Schindler’s ‘girl in red’ grows up

Now 23, actress Oliwia Dabrowska says she should have kept a childhood promise to Steven Spielberg

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

The 'girl in red' scene from the Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List. (YouTube screenshot)
The 'girl in red' scene from the Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List. (YouTube screenshot)

Oliwia Dabrowska now realizes Steven Spielberg was right. When they were filming “Schindler’s List,” the director asked the young Polish actress, who appeared as the little girl in the red coat, to promise she would not watch the film until she was 18. But she broke that promise and watched it at age 11, ending up ashamed and traumatized.

The Times of London reports that Dabrowska, now 23, was emotionally confused when adults used to ask about her role in the film. She was only 3 when she appeared, wearing the only garment in color in the otherwise black-and-white film. It’s when the title character, played by Liam Neeson, spots her during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto that he decides to save the lives of more than 1,200 Jews.

“I was ashamed of being in the movie and really angry with my mother and father when they told anyone about my part,” Dabrowska said. “I kept it secret for a long, long time, though at high school people got to know on the Internet. People said: ‘It must be so important to you, you must know so much about the Holocaust.’ I was frustrated by it all.”

When she watched the film again when she turned 18, she regretted having broken her word to Spielberg. “Then I realized I had been part of something I could be proud of,” she recalled. “Spielberg was right: I had to grow up into the film.”

These days, Dabrowska pursues acting as a hobby. Now a third-year university student, she’s more focused on library sciences and her job at a Krakow bookshop.

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