The Soviet massacre of Polish officers at Katyn

Even without knowing that his father, Jakub, had been murdered at Katyn in 1940, I wasn’t expecting Andrzej Wadja’s 2007 “Katyn” to be light entertainment, and it wasn’t. The massacre by the Soviet secret police) NKVD, predecessor of the KGB) of 22,000 Poles (of whom 15,000+ were military officers) is not shown until the final ten minutes, after opposing the Soviet coverup (blaming it on the Nazis) led to more deaths.


The steely Anna (Maja Ostaszewska),a version of the director’s mother, survives and eventually abandons hope that her husband, Andrzej (Artur Zmijewski), will return alive. There are other characters and bits of romance that cannot last very long. The construction of the movie seems a bit haphazard to me, though the anguish of lost exacerbated by having to condone lies about responsibility for the crimes is very clear.

The foreigners, both Soviet and Nazi, are portrayed as unmitigated villains. There is more sympathy for Polish collaborators, and those gathered to be slaughtered are without characterological blemishes. Yes, the movie before the harrowing climax verges on post-Warsaw Pact agit-prop.


The movie, which was nominated for a best foreign-language picture Oscar, and had big box office success in Poland, is banned in the PRC as well as in Russia, though in 1990 the final Soviet regime (Gorbachev’s) acknowledged NKVD responsibility and expressed “profound regret”


©2016, 2018, Stephen O. Murray

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