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World War II and Two Occupations

Dilemmas of Polish Memory


Anna Wolff-Powęska and Piotr Forecki

This anthology presents the work of several authors from different academic disciplines. Film and literature experts, sociologists, historians and theatrologists analyse the Polish memory of the Nazi and Stalinist occupations, which are key components of Polish collective identity. Before the political turn of 1989, the memory of World War II was strictly controlled by the state. The elements of memory related to the Soviet occupation were eradicated, as well as any other elements that did not fit the official narrative about the war. Unblocking the hitherto limited public discourse resulted in the process of filling the blank pages of history and the development of different and frequently conflicting communities of memory.
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Tadeusz Lubelski - The Representation of the Soviet Occupation in Polish Film


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Tadeusz Lubelski

The Representation of the Soviet Occupation in Polish Film

A survey about the memory of World War II conducted in Poland on the 20th anniversary of regaining full independence reveals optimistic results. According to it, our current memory has been shaped in free Poland; the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact is widely known, as are the real culprits of the Katyn massacre.1 One may conclude that the few decades of education in the People’s Republic of Poland (Polish: PRL) have fallen into oblivion. However, the long-term influence of culture is never devoid of consequences. Assuredly, the PRL propaganda was neither as radical nor as lengthy as the Soviet; it also met stronger resistance in the form of home education. However, the many years of its domination in the public discourse must have left a trace. With good reason, the two most popular and most frequently broadcast Polish TV series are Czterej pancerni i pies (Four Tank-men and a Dog, 1965–1969) and Stawka większa niż życie (More Than Life at Stake, 1967–1968): the image of contemporary history they present, shaped during the period of Gomułka’s government, still resonates.

This paper focuses on the film as a part of the wide process of initially spreading untruth, followed by truth. The object of my attention is the image of the Soviet occupation presented in Polish feature films and documentaries produced over the 72 years between 1941 and 2013. I primarily take...

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