Romola Garai: 'The Windermere Children struck a chord with me'

Anna Maciejewska and Romola Garai in The Windermere Children

Romola Garai on her uplifting factual drama The Windermere Children about child Holocaust survivors who were brought to the Lake District to recover

Filming BBC2's real-life drama The Windermere Children deeply moved Romola Garai as the emotional film had parallels with her own family story.

The drama explores how 300 children from Europe who had survived the Holocaust were sent to Lake Windermere as part of a rehabilitation programme. Romola plays Marie Paneth, one of the caring volunteers who helped rebuild the children's lives. And the actor felt there were echoes with her own paternal ancestors’ arrival in the UK from Hungary in the early 20th century.

“It was something my family lived through and I connected to,” she told us. “What struck a chord was that my father's family emigrated to the UK before the war. They still had family in Hungary though and had to acclimatise themselves to information coming through about the concentration camps. They were that first generation who learnt what human beings can do to each other on that scale. With this, the attempt to bring these children to the Lake District was part of that sense of, ‘How could this have happened and we didn't know?’”

The young cast of The Windermere Children and the real-life Holocaust survivors

The young cast of The Windermere Children and the real-life Holocaust survivors who they portray (Image credit: BBC/Wall to Wall/ZDF)

Romola was thrilled to play Marie. And she admired the work Marie did with the children as they struggled to adjust to life in a new country.

“Marie was an incredible person who worked with art therapy and play therapy,” explained the star of The Hour and The Miniaturist. “These people understood that the human experience had to be about more than just survival. It had to be about happiness too, and they were trying to generate that feeling in the children again. The staff had wonderful intentions. They were courageous people. It’s very moving.”

The Windermere Children airs on BBC2 on Monday 27 January at 9pm

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.