Roma Ligocka: The girl in the red coat in “Schindler’s List”

Roma Ligocka at the book fair in Kraków, 2004.
Roma Ligocka at the book fair in Kraków, 2004.

She fell in love with the director Jan Biczycki, who gained nationwide popularity as the artistic director at the Juliusz-Słowacki Theatre in Kraków . During their honeymoon in Austria in 1965, the young couple decided not to return to Poland. The couple moved around Western Europe for years staging theatre pieces – even after the birth of their son Jakob. Roma worked as a costume designer and stage designer in theatres, operas and in film and television. Her husband Jan found himself again in the international theatre scene. These years of travelling took them to Graz, Vienna, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main and Copenhagen. When their son was five years old, the family settled in Ottobrunn near Munich. But despite the success in her personal and professional life, Roma suffered severe psychological setbacks because she was unable to process her childhood trauma. It signalled the breakdown of her marriage, after which she left Ottobrunn and moved to Stuttgart with her son. Her life continued to be marked by severe depression and panic attacks.

After years of suppressing everything that happened, it is a film that finally gives Roma the impetus to consciously confront her past: 2 March 1994 is the première of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” in Kraków, to which, along with personalities from politics and culture, holocaust survivors and their families are invited. After initially resisting attending the première, Roma found herself in the cinema with her son – and found herself confronted with her own story on the screen:

“In the Ghetto. Dark apartments. Confinement. Escape, Suitcase. Screams. Tears. Boots. (…) The Girl in the Red Coat.”

A turning point in the life of the 55-year-old who finally felt inspired and strong enough to tell the story of what she experienced.

Her novel, a bestseller, was published in 2000 under the title “The Girl in the Red Coat” and was translated into 25 languages. The autobiographical novel does not just create an image of a childhood during the Second World War. The author also tells the story of a young woman who, after her harrowing experiences in the war, searches in vain for a place in Polish society and later in German society - and in doing so creates a valuable historical eyewitness account. Today, Roma Ligocka lives in Munich and Kraków. Katarzyna Salski


Katarzyna Salski, may 2018



Roma Ligocka (with Iris von Finckenstein): “The Girl in the Red Coat”. Penguin Random House, 2003.

The scene with the girl in the red coat from "Schindler's List":