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The true story behind Hulu's 'We Were the Lucky Ones'

The Hulu miniseries is based on a real family's incredible story of escaping Poland during WWII.
Joey King as Halina and Logan Lerman as Addy in "We Were the Lucky Ones."
Joey King as Halina and Logan Lerman as Addy in "We Were the Lucky Ones."Hulu
/ Source: TODAY

At the beginning of World War II, about 3.3 million Jewish people lived in Poland. After the war, about 380,000 Jews remained in Poland. 

Over the course of the war, about 90 percent of Polish Jews were murdered in ghettos or death camps, according to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center

So the odds were against the Kurcs, a Jewish family living in Radom, Poland, when the Nazis invaded in 1939. Forced to separate at the beginning of the war, members of the Kurc family endured unimaginable heartbreak as they each fought in their own way to survive and reunite with their loved ones.

The Kurcs’ epic true story is told in a new Hulu limited series, “We Were the Lucky Ones,” which is based on a novel by Georgia Hunter, who wrote the book based on her family’s real experiences in the Holocaust.

Read on to learn more about the true story that inspired “We Were the Lucky Ones.”

Is ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ based on a true story?“We Were the Lucky Ones” is adapted from a 2017 novel of the same name by Georgia Hunter, who based the book on her family’s real story.

The Kurc siblings in the Hulu show are based on actual members of Hunter’s family. Hunter’s grandfather was engineer and composer Addy Kurc, portrayed by Logan Lerman on the Hulu show.

Logan Lerman as Addy and Lihi Kornowski as Elise in "We Were the Lucky Ones."
Logan Lerman as Addy and Lihi Kornowski as Elise in "We Were the Lucky Ones."Vlad Cioplea / Hulu

Like his character in the miniseries, the real-life Addy Kurc, who later changed his name to Eddy Courts, was an avid composer who penned a hit 1937 song, “List.” The song was originally recorded by Polish singer Vera Gran and can be heard here, along with more of Kurc’s compositions.

Addy Kurc’s parents were Sol and Nechuma Kurc, the family patriarch and matriarch in the Hulu show played by Lior Ashkenazi and Robin Weigert. 

The character of Halina Kurc, played by “The Kissing Booth” star Joey King, is also based on Hunter’s real great-aunt, Halina, and the other Kurc siblings seen on the show — Genek, Mila and Jakob — were also real members of Hunter’s family.

Hunter shared a family tree on Instagram showing the relationships between some of the main characters on the show, and in real life.

Hunter was inspired to research her family history after learning more about the wartime experiences of her grandfather and his siblings and parents at a family reunion in 2000, she wrote on her official website.

Her novel was the result of years of investigation into her family’s remarkable story. 

Amit Rahav as Jakob, Eva Feiler as Bella, Anita Adam-Gabay as Anna, Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Genek, and Moran Rosenblatt as Herta in "We Were the Lucky Ones."
Amit Rahav as Jakob, Eva Feiler as Bella, Anita Adam-Gabay as Anna, Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Genek, and Moran Rosenblatt as Herta in "We Were the Lucky Ones."Vlad Cioplea / Hulu

While the characters in her book, and the Hulu show, are based on real people and events, Hunter explained that she took some liberties of imagination to bring their story to life.

“I decided in the end to allow myself the creative license to fictionalize it — to add those human, emotional details I wasn’t able to uncover in my research, such as what my characters were thinking and saying and feeling,” she said in an interview with Book Club Babble.

Hunter interviewed several living relatives to learn about her family’s story, including her great-aunt Felicia Kajler, who is portrayed at different ages by Artemisia Pagliano and Belle Swarc in the Hulu series. 

She also interviewed Eliska, her grandfather’s ex-fiancée, played by Lihi Kornowski on the show, as well as several second-generation survivors who had heard wartime stories from their parents. In addition, Hunter had access to recordings of first-hand accounts from Halina Kurc, Felicia Kajler and Maryla Tatar from the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. 

Hadas Yaron as Mila and Sophie Brooke as Joasia in "We Were the Lucky Ones."
Hadas Yaron as Mila and Sophie Brooke as Joasia in "We Were the Lucky Ones."Vlad Cioplea / Hulu

While most of the characters in her book and the Hulu miniseries have the same names as their real-life counterparts, Hunter notes that the name of Maryla Tatar, wife of her grandfather’s brother, Jakob Tatar, has been changed to Bella in the book and show.

Hunter also revealed that the name of her book, and the Hulu series, was inspired by words spoken by her great-aunt Felicia during the Kurc family reunion in 2000. Hunter recalled the poignant moment in a book club guide for her novel:

“Our family,” Felicia said in her thick French accent, her tone sober, “we shouldn’t have survived. Not so many of us, at least.” She paused, listening to the breeze rattling the leaves in the scrub oak trees beside the house. The rest of us were silent. I held my breath, waiting for her to go on, to offer up some sort of explanation. Felicia sighed and brought a hand to the place on her neck where her skin was still pockmarked, I would later learn, by a near-fatal case of scurvy she’d contracted during the war. “It’s a miracle in many ways,” she finally said, looking out toward the tree line. “We were the lucky ones.”

Georgia Hunter

Have any members of the real Kurc family seen ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’?

Multiple descendants of the Kurc family have been supportive of both the book and the new miniseries.

Georgia Hunter was closely involved in the filming of “We Were the Lucky Ones,” serving as a co-executive producer for several episodes, and her mother, Isabelle Hunter, often accompanied her on set. 

“Congratulations, G! Your father, who always imagined this story on screen, is smiling on you,” Isabelle Hunter wrote on Instagram when the screen adaptation was announced.

Isabelle Hunter, who is the daughter of Addy Kurc, also shared her amazement about how the Hulu show created a replica of the S/S Alsina, which she explained in an Instagram post is the “ship on which my father and hundreds of refugees tried to escape from Europe.”

The descendants of Nechuma and Sol Kurc, and their spouses, “number more than one hundred,” Georgia Hunter said in her book club guide to “We Were the Lucky Ones.”

“They are scattered throughout Brazil, the United States, France, Switzerland, and Israel, but still make an effort to come together every few years,” she added.

More than 20 members of the extended Kurc family gathered in 2017 in New York to mark the novel’s publication.

In March 2024, more than 25 members of the Kurc family came together once more to attend a screening of the series premiere, hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. 

The family members came from six different countries and many were meeting for the first time, the museum shared on Instagram.

The Kurc family members donated items from their personal archives, which included family photographs, papers, and other artifacts, to the museum’s collection.

How to watch ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’

"We Were the Lucky Ones" is available to stream on Hulu. The eight-part miniseries premiered with the first three episodes on Hulu on March 28, and will continue airing weekly on Thursdays until May 2.