Remebering the Katyn massacre
'Dear Dad, why aren't you coming back?' - billboards featuring fragments of letters addressed to Polish officers killed by Stalin's NKVD in the Katyn forest in 1940 are a part of a promotional campaign preceding the premiere of Andrzej Wajda's film about one of the most tragic events in Polish history.
Michal Kubicki reports
Some 22 thousand Polish officers were taken prisoner by the Red Army when the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland in September 1939, 17 days after the Nazi attack on Poland. On orders from Stalin, the Poles were shot in the Katyn forest. The crime was revealed by the Nazis in 1943 but the Soviet Union blamed Hitler's Germany for the massacre.
Andrzej Wajda's film is not a historical account of the tragedy but draws psychological portraits of a group of mothers, wives and daughters of Polish officers. One of the most eagerly awaited Polish films in several decades, it is preceded by a nationwide campaign about Katyn and its place in Polish history. Krzysztof Dudek of the National Cultural Centre which organizes the campaign.
'In this campaign we prepared billboards and special lessons on DVD which will be sent to schools. The most important point of the campaign will be the premiere of Andrzej Wajda's film'.
Even though in 1990 the Soviet leader Gorbachev acknowledged Soviet responsibility for the Katyn massacre, Russia still claims it was a crime under civic jurisdiction and therefore no longer subject to prosecution.
What is worrying for Poles is that according to recent surveys, as many as 40 percent of Poles do not know who is responsible for the Katyn massacre. According to historian Janusz Cisek, the current promotional campaign should play an important educational role.
'We lost some time over the past 17 years in our educational process with our historical patriotic upbringing. Our society emerged from communist subjugation and from the communist system of education without any good examples. Our TV did not provide good education. There was not enough effort as far as producing documentary movies on modern history of Poland and Polish-Russian relations. All of a sudden, after 17 years we have another generation which is totally lost as far as historical education is concerned. We have plenty to do in this respect.'
In addition to billboards and educational materials for schools, an album entitled Katyn has just been brought out by the Proszynski Publishers. Iwona Pacholec is one of its editors.
'Wajda's film focuses on the lives of several characters - the victims of Katyn and their families. The album can serve as an introduction to the film, with remarks by the director and an outline of the historical background of the tragedy'.
Historian Janusz Cisek is looking forward to the premiere of Wajda's film.
'People don't take education from books any more. It's through the Internet and movie productions. You can see it judging Spielberg's films about the Holocaust. It's the best way of introducing historical education to modern society. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this movie and am looking forward to the day of its introduction to our cinemas.'
Wajda's Katyn will be premiered on September 17, an anniversary of the Soviet Union's attack on Poland in 1939. It remains to be seen if the film proves an artistic success comparable to his most memorable features such as Ashes and Diamonds and Man of Iron.
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