Roma Ligocka was born Rominka Liebling to a Jewish family in Krakow, Poland, a year before the start of World War II. During the Nazi Occupation of Poland, she and her parents were put into the Kraków Ghetto. Her father David Liebling was sent to the Płaszów forced labor camp and then to Auschwitz. Roma and her mother escaped via an underground passage when the ghetto was liquidated in 1943 by the Germans. Her mother obtained false I.D. papers and they hid with a Polish family. Her father survived World War II, but died a year later in a Russian prison. She spent time after the war with her cousin, Roman Polanski, who took her to the movies for the first time. She studied painting and scenic design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, and worked as a model and actress while developing a successful career as a set designer in theatre, film, and television. In 1965, she and her second husband, Jan Biczycki, left Poland for Germany, where she worked as a costume and set designer. She has written several novels and an autobiographical work, The Girl in the Red Coat (2003),
inspired by Steven Spielberg's movie Schindler's List.