Katyn - a film by Andrzej Wajda
Poland's acclaimed director Andrzej Wajda trained the bright light
of cinema on Wednesday on one of his country's darkest episodes:
that of the Soviet massacre of 22,500 Polish army officers and
civilians in 1940.
For the 81-year-old director, the film "Katyn" -- presented in
Warsaw and named after the forest where some of the slayings
occurred -- is more than another of his deft political scrutinies:
it's also very personal.
His father, Captain Jakub Wajda, was one of the victims who fell to
the Soviet invaders, shot in the back of the head by Stalin's secret
His death, and his mother's refusal to accept it, forms the
inspiration of "Katyn", Wajda explained at the press screening.
"My mother fed off illusions up to the end of her life, because my
father's last name was given with a different first name on the list
of massacred officers," the director said.
Wajda -- who won an honorary Oscar in 2000 for his lifetime's work,
including such Polish classics as "Kanal" (1957), "Ziemia Obiecana"
(1975) and Czlowiek z zelaza" (1981) -- said "Katyn" was to get its
public premiere on September 17, the date 68 years ago that the Red
Army pushed its way into Poland, already half-occupied by the Nazis.
The movie starts on that fateful day in 1939 with two mobs pushing
past each other: one to flee the Soviets, the others the Germans.
It ends with powerful and disturbing depictions of the executions in
Katyn Forest. Thousands of Polish officers and civilians
deemed "counterrevolutionaries" were killed.
The episode remained obscured for a long time, even after the Nazis
revealed the existence of the mass graves in 1941 following the end
of the German-Soviet pact after Nazi troops invaded the Soviet Union.
Moscow blamed the Germans for the massacre, and the West remained
silent so as not to antagonise the Soviet Union, then a valuable
ally in the fight against Hitler. In Communist Poland, the subject
It was only in 1990 that then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
admitted his country's responsibility.
Wajda stressed that "this film would not have seen the light of day"
during Poland's Communist years.
"No sane-minded filmmaker would have been able to make this during
the Communist era, unless it was to present an official version," he
"I hope there will be other films on the same topic," he said.