Sarah ‘s Key
It is rare that I find a movie so haunting and inspiring. The Movie revolves around an American journalist living in Paris in the present time and a young Jewish girl Sarah Starzynski during the second world war.
This blog can’t cover all the themes in the movie. But it does show how the past intersects and touches the present in so many ways. The American journalist feel a connection with this young girl and tries to find her.
I find the movie haunting because I felt like I was watching a documentary on my family. My name is Stefan Starzynski. I was named after the mayor of Warsaw Stefan Starzynski. Mayor Stefan Starzynski is a national hero of Poland. He is buried under the altar in the cathedral in Warsaw.
The movie is about how the French on July 16,1942 rounded up 13,000 Jews and put them in inhumane conditions and sent them to Auschwitz.
You are gripped from the first moment in the movie when the police knocked at the door and the police officer says “Starzynski.” Sarah hides her little brother in a secret room and says, “Wait; I will be back.” Sarah keeps the key so that she can free her brother.
Sarah, her mother, and father are sent to the camp. Sarah is separated from her mom and dad. You see the greatness of Sarah’s soul when she hides her brother. You also see the greatness of her little soul as she escapes from the camp.
Sarah is discovered by a guard when she is trying to escape. Rather than crumbling in fear, she holds out her hand and addresses the guard by name saying “I am Sarah Starzynski.” This little girl has the courage to remind this guard of his humanity and her humanity.
Sarah finds her way to the secret room where she hid her brother. She finds that he is dead. Sarah now carries the guilt of thinking that she is responsible for the death of her brother.
Sarah is a tragic figure. In the movie we later see Sarah as an adult. Her husband says that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She is a woman of great elegance. She had a stately beauty but she is very lonely. Sarah always was private with her pain. In the movie her son never truly knew his mother.
Sarah is for me a symbol of Poland. She is a beautiful woman with great courage. But she carries great suffering and guilt. Much like the Polish people.
In the movie Sarah ends up committing suicide. She can’t live with the guilt that she feels responsible for the death of her brother.
We all know that it was Sarah’s courage that protected her brother from the police. But Sarah’s heart can’t accept that.
When I was leaving the movie I said to my mom, “Do you think if you asked Sarah she would have changed her mind and not escaped from the camp?” In an interesting way it is her courage that killed her. It is only because she escaped that she saw her brother’s dead body in the hidden room. My mom said, “Sarah was killed by her guilt. It shows the power that guilt has on the soul.”
It is so true that guilt can kill us. I was reflecting how beautiful it is that as Catholics we have the sacrament of confession. That in the sacrament of confession we can give our guilt to God.
Sarah was a great soul, with the courage of a Lion. But in some way she was killed by her courage.
I feel that Sarah Starzynski was a member of my family tree. I feel that Sarah’s blood runs through my veins.
Blessing and Love
Father Stefan Starznski