Friday, October 21, 2011

The Value in Remembering Katyn

For the most part, I try to stay away from politically charged themes, so for the sake of continuing in that tradition, do you mind if we call this a movie review?  It really is about a movie, which happens to be about an important story. It came up for me again today when I read where Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has made a statement regarding the slaughter of thousands of Polish men in the forest of Katyn in 1940.  The news story states the number at 2,000. So, I'm left wondering if that's the official number that Russia is willing to apologize for murdering, or is that a misprint?  Because the actual number is around 22,000. It included Polish officers as well as university professors and anyone else considered a part of the intelligentsia. They were, by orders from Joseph Stalin, executed one by one and then buried in a mass grave, with bulldozers doing the rest of that very dirty work.

Rather than show images from the excavation of those graves, I'd like to share a trailer for the film. Like so many foreign films, it deals with really tough subjects, but it does so in an atmosphere that constitutes some of the best cinematography one could find in film, which, in this case, serves to heighten the horror over what happened at Katyn. No, it's not so difficult to watch that one is left feeling manipulated, but it does underscore our terrible shared history. The key to films such as this is that one would hope it serves a greater good and that it would aid in not allowing history to repeat itself.

It follows the lives of four women who are impacted, each in their own way, by the arrest and eventual deaths of the men in their lives: brothers, husbands, fathers, sons. Directed by Andrzej Wajda, who is considered one of the finest directors we have, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. To add even more gravitas to the film, not that it needed more, Wajda's own father was among those murdered in the Katyn forest. His story is a very personal one, indeed.

When I read the statement by the Russian foreign minister today, I almost got angry all over again. The carefully worded statement is filled with the kind of political rhetoric that still runs rampant. He said, "Russia is ready to consider a perfectly legitimate request to declare these people innocent."  Huh?  It kind of reminds me of President Obama's wording in his statement today regarding the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of the year - except for those who will be left to guard that monstrous multi-billion dollar fiasco built by taxpayers money, our money, called the American Embassy, another monument to American greed. Okay, okay, he said, "After nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."  Again, huh?  I'm sorry, Mr. President, but that is not and never was, "America's war." It is and always has been a Bush/Cheney war and then it became Your war. So, please stop referring to it as "America's war." I take extreme umbrage to that bullshit. But, as they say, I digress.

"Katyn" is an excellent film, telling an important story, and if you like foreign films at all, I cannot imagine you would be disappointed - sad, very sad, maybe even mad at the ways that human beings can act towards one another, a story repeated over and over again right up to the present day, but you won't be disappointed in the film. I try not to give movie-going direction, but may I please offer one suggestion?  Stay with the film even when the screen goes gray. It goes gray for a reason. Let that reason soak in. And, while you're staying with it, stay for the credits. I'm a big credit watcher. I think it's important that we honor all those who are part of films that matter. This one matters.


  1. Hello Teresa:
    How strange that you should mention the film 'Katyn' as this subject was the dominant theme of a special exhibition at the Terror House shown in Budapest in recent months.

    A harrowing topic, most certainly, and we do applaud the fact that the Director of the Terror House is able to mount such exhibitions, however uncomfortable they may be.

    We did not know of the film but shall be most interested to seek it out and watch.

  2. Andrew Jackson, Hitler, Mussolini, Tjo, Stalin, Franco, Pol Pot, Qadaffi, LBJ, Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Bush/Cheney...If there is a difference, it is only due to opportunity.

  3. I will see it when it comes to our independent theater, which I am sure it will. It was probably already here once. Or I will rent it and watch it if that isn't an opportunity. I hear you, Teresa. And what Stump said is absolutely true...

  4. Jane and Lance, I can quite imagine the Terror House is a difficult place to visit, but we need to remember, not immerse ourselves in the anguish, but remember. I'm grateful to those who are continuing to ask us to do so.

    It's a very good film.

    Cletis, There's a long list, isn't there? And no difference. Not really.

  5. DJan, I think you would like the film. It's very well-done. I first saw it in a theater in Santa Fe a couple of years ago, but I believe it can be rented.

  6. I guess we know more about the western front because of America's eventual reluctant involvement? I honestly knew nothing about the interactions between Stalin and Hitler, and Stalin and "his" people until I stumbled across several hours of Hardcore History. Now I know next to nothing. It's a start.

    I will look for this movie when it comes out on DVD.

  7. The Good Luck Duck, I, too, knew next to nothing, but after a long time friendship with my pal, JB, who has degrees in political science and history, I've become a tad more knowledgeable and a whole lot more aware. Now, I can see at least the tip of the iceberg.

  8. I watch quite a few foreign, independent, and documentary films. I went immediately to Netflix and put it at the top of my queue. Thanks for telling me about this one, Teresa.

    I don't talk about politics, either. But I watch these films about what we have done and continue to do to each other. I'm not sure why. I mourn for us in a deep place and pray for healing while I do.

  9. A wonderful post and a terrific reminder of how government often fails its people, now and in the past. While I do not expect perfection I at least require accountability in government, something that is a rare if not impossible find these days.

    Thank you for reminding us all.

  10. Interesting, Teresa ... sometimes we all need a good history lesson.

    Interpretations are interesting...

    "America's war is over in Iraq".

    I took him to mean ... our involvement in Iraq is over. However, it was our war... Bush/Cheney are Americans and started the damn thing. I don't think he could have called it that ... Bush/Cheney might have sued him. Wouldn't that have been fun though. hah!

    I'll be glad when they quit showing the video of Gadhafi being killed... I keep my remote aimed... dear lord

    At any rate this despicable war is over and our people will be home for the holidays! yay!

    I'm from the Vietnam war days... our soldiers were treated like crap ... I remember it well.

    These wonderful troops will come home to cheers ... we've come a long way with supporting our troops regardless of the worthless wars.

  11. RITA, A fellow film-lover it sounds. I'm certain you will feel as moved by it as I did.

    WILD BILL, Thanks. Perfection cannot be reached in our present human condition, but we can do so much better. And accountability never seems to be forthcoming. It never will, of course.

    CAROLYN, I have trouble with the way in which politicians frame things. I am an American, too, and it has never been my war in Iraq and millions of others feel the same way. No, he could not have called it the Bush/Cheney war, but he chose that wording deliberately.... I'm Very grateful the troops will be coming home. More than grateful.

    I'm from the Viet Nam War days, too, and we definitely need to do Much better than we have for our veterans. That's a national shame of the highest magnitude.

  12. Great introduction to what seems like a movie that needs to be watched. I will check it out. Love to read all the comments from so many smart individuals here. Much to be learned, that is true.

  13. America sticks it's nose in the 'business' of other countries but does little or nothing here, and what they do here, makes it worse (Obama backing Fisker to build cars in Finland - more jobs for America ha, what a crock) for our own failings here at home. We shouldn't be in any of these wars - they are not America's people's wars, but the government's colonialist, imperialist, capitalist, elistist wars for greed backed by the rich for power, their gain, control of oil, etc. They are however viewed by the rest of the world as America's and it's allies, mostly England's, wars.

    We're pulling out of Iraq because Obama wants to be re-elected pure and simple, more power to the powerful, Democrat or Republican it's more of the same for the 99%.

  14. Hi Teri, There are, indeed, smart folks commenting here, and for that I'm most grateful. It's a huge part of what I love about blogging - this fine community of thoughtful people. I trust you'd like this film very much.

    Linda S., When I think of the vast amount of money that simply disappeared in Iraq - billions! - plus the heretofore unimaginable amount spent on that fortress of an embassy, I am just sickened. Not only is it about re-election, but it's also because Iraq's gov't would not grant our soldiers/ mercenaries immunity for crimes they might commit. I think the term for this is FUBAR.

  15. It always(still) amazes me of how much i don't know...this subject being one of them. On Irag I think Obama forgot to mention the thousands and thousands of contractors that will still be their...that we will still be paying for. Kind of like saying 2,000 instead of 22,000.

  16. Yep, exactly so. There's always more to the story.

    I knew about this story because when I planned to see the movie, I did a little homework beforehand. It's one of countless stories very similar to this one.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  17. Murder is murder
    Today and forever it
    Remains what it is.

  18. Paul, Yes. Sometimes governments use vague words to lessen the impact, but it is murder, exactly so. Each one of them was a real individual person with a family that mourned them for years and years, and that's what the film shows, in an utterly heartbreaking way.

  19. If only those horrors of the past would never be repeated, but it never ends...

  20. No, it doesn't seem so, does it? Thank you for reading and commenting Ms. Sparrow.

  21. well My Dad Was Polish & Fought With The Free Polish Airforce In Britain During WW2.So, Of Course, I've Seen The Film & Your Right It's A Mighty Film & It Casts A Long Shadow Over Russian Involvement& Attitude.
    Worth seeing along With The Pianist Which (for some reason?) Doesn't really show Russian (non-involvement/help) With The Warsaw Uprising against The Facist Germans.
    Poland Really as Been The Whipping boy of Europe.
    Dziekuje Bardzo,Teresa.

  22. Tony, I am so glad you've come by to read this post and thank you so very much for your comments. It provides the exclamation point to this post.

    I found The Pianist to be excellent, as well. Another very important story told in the cold hard light of Truth with equally amazing cinematography and the acting, of course, Oscar-winning.

    You're most welcome, Tony. Thank you, again, for your comments.

  23. I have wondered what percent we are paying to war compared with our allies who have stepped in. Terrible we have to continue fighting anywhere.many of the atrocities get swept aside. Look at Bosnia, 175,000 residents are displaced and unable to ever return.

  24. You did good here girl. Nothing wrong with getting political now and then. It'd be different if you were wrong but you are not.

  25. Steve, I'm willing to bet it's pretty substantial compared to the others who have been marginally involved. Whenever we hear of atrocities committed by some of our own, we can pretty safely say it's just a small part of what's really happened.

    One Fly, Thank you, I appreciate it.

  26. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one. I remember the story of Katyn, yet another sorrowful reminder of man's in-humanity to man.

  27. Jane, It's such a good and powerful story to be aware of about our history. I do believe it's available on things like Netflix and such.

  28. I think its important to get political -sometimes essential - especially about the important things. I will watch out for the film. I'm ashamed to say it's a story I was not aware. Difficult though it is to know I'm glad I do now - thank you.

  29. I still remember Schindler's List. A little girl's red coat the only color in a black and white scene of horror.

    I try to practice peace in my own life and to treat people well. That's my part. And I vote.

  30. Avril, Good to see you again. Yes, it is important to know. I practice peace mixed with awareness. It works for me.

    Linda M., That red coat made it all go beyond film to the horror itself. Practicing peace and treating people well is a fine plan for one's life. It's the better part.