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    Stalinism, Siberia and the EU By Tony Barber Published: May 15 2008 03:00 | Last updated: May 15 2008 03:00 Brussels Blog (Tony Barber): The European Union s
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2008
      Stalinism, Siberia and the EU
      By Tony Barber
      Published: May 15 2008 03:00 | Last updated: May 15 2008 03:00
      Brussels Blog (Tony Barber): The European Union's leaders travel next
      month to Khanty-Mansiysk for a summit with Dmitry Medvedev, the new
      Russian president. Will they find time, I wonder, in this booming
      western Siberian oil town to stop off at the crossroads of Sverdlova
      and Pionerskaya streets? They should do. There, in front of School
      Number 5, they will find a recently erected memorial to the victims
      of Stalin's repressions - at least, so the town's government website
      says.The existence of this memorial reminds us to think twice before
      rushing to judge today's Russia. The country clearly moved to a more
      authoritarian, centralised form of rule under Vladimir Putin. Civil
      liberties were curtailed. But many Russians remain as determined as
      ever to expose the truth about their country's bloodstained communist
      past. These days, Stalin cannot be airbrushed from Russia's history
      as easily as he used to airbrush his opponents.Putin's reordering of
      Russia and his revival of its great power foreign-policy ambitions
      contributed to a downturn in EU-Russian relations, but none of that
      makes Russia a monotonal society. As Olli Rehn, EU enlargement
      commissioner, said in a thoughtful speech last week: "The rise of the
      middle class and entrepreneurs in Russia should eventually mean
      growing demands for property rights and, by extension, legal
      certainty. This internal dynamic may lead Russia to reform its legal
      system and make its political system more accountable - but this is
      certainly not an automatic process by any means."Russia's leaders at
      present can hardly be said to share the EU's core values of freedom,
      democracy and the rule of law. But neither do other countries
      important to Europe, including, for example, most of its neighbours
      on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. As with these
      neighbours, so with Russia - there's little choice but to try to
      improve relations. It would be wrong to kick Russia out of the Group
      of Eight leading industrial nations, as John McCain, the Republican
      nominee in the US presidential race, suggested in March - even if
      that were possible. Rather, the EU and the US should be hard-headed
      but practical in their dealings with Russia and, above all, recognise
      that relations with Moscow tend to be at their most difficult when
      western countries are disunited."Experience shows that Russia
      respects the EU when we are able to adopt united positions, and act
      accordingly. Conversely, Russia is adept at exploiting disunity among
      member states," David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, the respective
      foreign ministers of the UK and France, wrote in a joint letter in
      March to the EU's Slovenian presidency.All too true. But the Khanty-
      Mansiysk summit will show whether these wise words were just that -
      words.www.ft.com/brussels blog

      http://www.popmatte rs.com/pm/ news/article/ 59313/film- documents-
      brutal-story-of-stalins- atrocities- in-poland/

      For 50 years, the word was never spoken, only whispered: Katyn, the
      forest where in spring 1940, six months after Germany and the Soviet
      Union secretly agreed to carve up Poland, more than 21,000 Polish
      military officers, intellectuals, priests, doctors, Boy Scouts and
      others were murdered by Joseph Stalin's secret police.

      This was quickly followed by mass deportations. Between 1.2 million
      and 1.6 million Poles, many of them women and children - "enemies of
      the state" - were transported to Siberia in cattle cars. Stalin's
      plan was to help himself to a large hunk of eastern Poland by
      exterminating its leadership class and depopulating the territory.
      Within 18 months 760,000 were dead. About one third of the victims
      were children.

      German troops discovered the mass graves of Katyn in 1943, two years
      after their invasion of the Soviet Union. Stalin immediately blamed
      the Germans for the atrocities. Roosevelt and Churchill knew better,
      but unwilling to risk their new alliance with Moscow, they went along
      with the cover-up.

      After the war, textbooks in Poland, vetted by Moscow, sustained the
      lie. It was not until the late 1980s, when the Soviet Union was in a
      terminal state of decrepitude, that the truth began to leach out.
      Travelers to Poland in those days might have noticed a discreet
      memorial in a corner of a parish church - a cross, a candle, a simple
      epitaph: Katyn.

      After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the truth flooded out, but
      even today, 68 years after the terrible events, the truth does not
      sit easily. This was evident last month when several survivors of the
      deportations gathered at the Gallery Theater in Chicago for the
      screening of a new documentary by Chris Swider, a filmmaker on the
      faculty of Columbia College.

      Swider's "Children in Exile" is a reflection of the deeply felt
      emotion unleashed when Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader,
      acknowledged in 1990 his country's role in the Katyn massacres.
      Scores of public memorials to the victims have sprouted across
      Poland, including an impressive monument to the victims of the
      deportations erected in the center of Warsaw.

      In 2004, the Russian government agreed to make all documents relating
      to Katyn available to Polish researchers as soon as they were
      declassified. The process has been slow, but a number of scholarly
      works already have been published.

      Last year, Andrzej Wajda, Poland's most celebrated film director,
      released what is arguably his masterpiece, titled "Katyn." For Poles,
      viewing it has almost become an obligatory act of patriotism and

      To this growing body of work, Swider has added an important new
      chapter. "Children in Exile," which made its local debut at the
      Chicago International Documentary Festival, tells the story of the
      civilian deportations through the testimony of the survivors. It is a
      story that has lived within Swider for much of his life, but one that
      he never expected to tell "because I never thought that communism
      would end in my lifetime."

      Swider's father, a captain in the Polish Army, narrowly escaped death
      at Katyn. He had been dispatched to a Soviet slave labor camp in
      Russia's far north a few days before the killings started.
      Eventually, he was "amnestied" by Stalin after the Nazi invasion of
      the Soviet Union; he ended up in the Polish battalions that fought
      alongside U.S. and British troops in Italy.

      Swider's family immigrated to Chicago in 1951 when he was 6 months
      old. He said he grew up "surrounded" by the wartime stories of his
      parents and their emigre friends, but it was not until communism
      collapsed and he was able to access his father's KGB files that he
      began to see the documentary potential.

      "Children in Exile" has been 16 years in the making. The story of
      Poland's wartime miseries and its aftermath is so complex, that
      Swider's first problem was how to winnow down an overabundance of

      He said he decided to focus on the plight of exiled children for two
      reasons: Their story has not received much attention, and they are
      still around to tell it.

      His technique is simple. "You turn a camera on and listen," he said.

      One of Swider's early decisions was to include an extended interview
      with Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's last communist leader.

      During Q&A sessions that followed the screenings in Chicago, members
      of the audience, mainly Polish-Americans, sharply criticized
      Jaruzelski's presence in the documentary. One man asked Swider why he
      put "this Polish traitor" in the film.

      "Because at the time he experienced what he experienced, he was a
      child, not a traitor," Swider replied.

      Afterward, Swider explained his thinking on Jaruzelski: "I wanted a
      pro-Russian communist. Whether you like him or not, his presence
      confirms and verifies the truth of what the others say."

      One of the "others" in Swider's documentary is Wesley Adamczyk, whose
      father was murdered at Katyn. Two months later, Adamczyk, who was 7
      at the time, was sent to Siberia with his mother, brother and sister.

      For two years, Adamczyk endured malnutrition and disease before
      escaping with his mother and sister to Kazakhstan, and then on to
      Iran where his mother succumbed to dysentery, malaria and general

      Adamczyk, then age 9, would spend the next seven years in various
      orphanages and refugee camps, a journey that took him from Tehran to
      Baghdad and eventually Beirut. For one year, he lived by himself, a
      virtual hermit, in an empty schoolhouse in Lebanon before relatives
      in Chicago managed to locate him and bring him to America in 1949.

      Adamczyk buried his traumas. He graduated from DePaul University,
      built a career as a senior chemist for Lever Brothers in Hammond,
      Ind., and became an accomplished tournament bridge player. He rarely
      spoke of his previous life.

      That changed in the early 1990s when Adamczyk began to search for the
      truth about his father's death. This led to a memoir, published in
      2004, about his own childhood exile.

      Now 75, Adamczyk is a gregarious man. He was warmly received by the
      audience at the Gallery Theater.

      "Saying this is difficult, because I love this country," he told them
      after the lights went up. "But what happened has an American
      connection in that the West helped Stalin cover up these crimes."

      It is too late to bring the perpetrators to justice - virtually all
      of them are dead. But there is still time to establish a full record
      of these crimes, and good reason to do so: "We shouldn't cover up
      crimes like this because if we do, they will repeat themselves,"
      Adamczyk said.
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