Home  Initiatives Janusz Korczak

Janusz Korczak

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth has partnered with the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada to produce two books written by those who, as children, lived in an orphanage during the 1930s and 40s in Poland run by a man many considered to be “the father of children's rights”.

These books were published to demonstrate that residential care can embody respect for the rights and voice of children and youth, and show how circumstances can be different for those in care today.

Both Books are available as a complimentary download:   

My life as a child coverwhite house in a grey city cover

"It was written somewhere above that I should stay alive despite all the bombings and that
I should save the photographs [of life in the orphanage] in order to tell their story."

Shlomo Nadel 

Taking Root: My life as a child of Janusz Korczak –the father of children’s rights– The biography of Shlomo Nadel  is the biography of a boy who grew up in a Jewish orphanage at the time between the two world wars, in Poland. The orphanage was founded and run by Dr. Janusz Korczak, a pediatrician and author who is widely considered the father of children’s rights. It was his writing and ideas, brought forward by Poland to the UN, which would form the foundation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely adopted human rights instrument in the world. In the orphanage, children had both rights and duties making them rights bearers not under the law, but in actual practice. The story comes from our world’s dark past but holds inspiration for children and youth in care today.

The official book launch was held on International Human Rights Day 2015, December 10, in recognition that children’s rights are human rights.

"Whenever I attempted to draw or paint the horrors of the Holocaust on paper or canvas, or to find some kind of expression for them, I had gnawing doubts whether this was at all possible.

Is an artist able to express the atrocity and fear, the unfathomable, inhuman reality of persecution and abysmal hatred of those times?"

Itzchak Belfer

Iitzchak Belfer, born in Warsaw, Poland, one of the children of the orphanage under the management of Dr. Janusz Korczak, was the only survivor of his large family which was wiped out in the Holocaust. A respected artist today, he received his first set of paints and brushes from the Administrator of the orphanage in his childhood.

This version of “White House in A Gray City” is an excerpt from the book of the same name, the autobiography of the entire life of Itzchak Belfer.  This excerpt documents Mr.  Belfer’s early years in the orphanage and also includes a stunning photo essay of the artist’s paintings and illustrations. The two taken together, the autobiography and the photo essay, provide a powerful opportunity to see how care could be different for children today. Mr.  Belfer has channeled his artistic talents, which were already obvious during his years in the orphanage, to the commemoration of Dr. Janusz Korczak’s work and the memory of his family and the Holocaust.


Taking Root: My life as a child of Janusz Korczak –the father of children’s rights– The biography of Shlomo Nadel  is a translation from the original Hebrew version. The book was produced and printed by Janusz Korczak Association of Canada and the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

The book launch celebration was hosted by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and UNICEF Canada in recognition and celebration of International Human Rights Day 2015.

Everyone involved would like to express their gratitude to Lea Lipiner and Shlomo Nadel who kindly granted their permission for the official book launch and photo exhibition.